Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

OPERA HOUSE WAS SCENE OF EARLY ENTERTAINMENT

Albion Recorder, June 2, 1997, pg. 4

One big improvement this past year in downtown Albion is the restoration of the face of the first floor of the Albion Opera House building, 223-225 S. Superior S.t, now the offices of dentist Dr. Judy Warren. This building was erected in 1868 by Theron Soule and George N. Davis as Albion’s Opera House, which operated on the upper stories. The stage measured 30 x 48 feet, and 18 feet high. The facility seated 500 persons.

The Albion Opera House was used for traveling musical groups, local talent plays, lectures, theatrical groups, political and social meetings, and even wrestling shows and other sporting events. Local druggist Hadley H. Sheldon (1865-1963) purchased the building in 1897, operating his drug and wall paper establishment where Dr. Warren’s office is now located. Sheldon added vaudeville to the repertoire upstairs, and the remains of old show posters can still be seen plastered on the backstage walls.

Because of the small narrow stairway and a lack of exists, the Opera House was declared a fire hazard in 1918 and closed to the public. Albion High School students, however, were allowed to use the facilities well into the 1920s for their "Junior EX" plays. A huge brass gas chandelier once hung from the center of the Opera House, but was dismantled in the late 1960s.

Retail establishments were located on the ground floor. The north side of the building housed the Charles Ashdown Clothiers for many years, and was replaced by the Temple Theatre in 1908, succeeded by the Censor Theatre which remained there until 1929. Sheldon operated his drug and wall paper store on the south side from 1897 to 1918, at which time he sold it to Arthur R. Smith.. Smith continued the business from 1918 to 1934. The business was then purchased by Fred O. Nesbitt, then by Weatherwax Pharmacy, which moved to where Fedco is today.

This week we present a very interesting photograph, circa 1920, courtesy of Marcelene (Bohm) VanSchoick. On the left we seen the Censor Theatre operated by George Bohm. The silent film being shown featuers Mary Pickford. Above is one of those large iron stairway fire escapes which several downtown Albion buildings had, most of which were gone by the 1970s as second and third stores were abandoned. This particular escape was added at the turn of the century. An ornate balcony formerly had stood here, and young men used to perch themselves in tall stately elm trees on S. Superior St. in front of the building for a free peek at the Opera House show.

In the middle above we see a small sign which reads, "OPERA." To the right is the A. R. Smith Drug Store. Looking above, the Opera House windows can been seen with several of them having been replaced, as some have painted white borders and others do not. I appreciate "new" old photographs of downtown Albion like this one to share with our readers. If you have an old photograph of downtown Albion, let me know.


Opera House, 1920

Next: MCGUIRE SALOON WAS PROMINENT IN EARLY 20TH CENTURY


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