Something more than two years ago a half dozen men in the lodge hall of Ivy Lodge, Knights of Pythias, began a discussion as to the feasibility of erecting a Pythian Building and Opera House in this city. Tonight will mark the close and the opening of an era in the history of Henderson. The seed sown by that handful of men has borne results more wonderful than any one of them dared to anticipate. The Park Theatre will formally be dedicated to the purposes for which it was intended tonight.
When that little gathering talked of a home for Ivy Lodge, their ideas
were small for the reason that their resources were limited, but as they
broached the subject to their friends and as the people of Henderson began
to talk of it, the idea became something more than a dream. At last at
a lodge meeting it was proposed to see what could be done in the way of
securing subscriptions in capital stock in the proposed building. Ivy
Lodge, as a lodge, pledged herself to take $5,000 of the stock. Members
of the order came promptly forward and subscribed in acceptance with their
means and at the end of three months hard work $30,000 of the proposed
$50,000 of capital stock had been subscribed; but the town had been thoroughly
canvassed and the enterprise seemed likely to die before it could be placed
upon a substantial foundation. At this juncture it was determined to apply
to some of Henderson's wealthy and public spirited men. Accordingly a
committee called on Messrs. James E. RANKIN, John H. and James
R. BARRET, and laid before them plans and ideas on which they
proposed to go to work. The gentlemen named _____in with the idea at once
and each subscribed liberally in the stock.
Mr. R. H. SOAPER was ............
That they have done their work in a substantial, artistic and workmanlike manner will be attested by the throng of people who will be entertained within its wall tonight. The entire interior decorations of the Opera House were arranged by the (Almim) Decorating Company, of Chicago. President STEWART, of that company, remarked after he had finished his contract, that never in the course of his experience had he done work of which he was more proud and which he felt sure would meet the commendation of the people.
The scenery was painted by (Sosman) & Landis of Chicago, a firm which has a national reputation for the excellence of its work. The drop curtain, (used during the) Spanish Wedding scene, is a work of art, worthy of a place in any theatre in the world. As regards (fire) protection, the Park Theatre is perhaps the most secure structure of similar character to be found anywhere in this country. In this particular ____ as near perfect as a play house could well be made.
Its exits are numerous and convenient, so that in case of fire the house could be emptied in less than minute's time/even if all the seats were filled. The curtain spoken of before is absolutely fire proof, and should a blaze occur on the stage it could be cut off as completely from the audience as though it were in another building.
The seating capacity of the theatre is 1353. The chairs are arranged
as follows: in the parquet are 288 elegantly upholstered chairs with green
plush furnishings, affording perfect comfort to those who use them.
Additional Notes found in the Society's business files:
The Pythian Building Associates was incorporated May 11, 1893, with a capital stock of $50,000 in shares of $50 each. The largest subscribers to the stock were John H. BARRET, James R. BARRET, James E. RANKIN, Ivy LODY of Pythias and R. H. SOAPER at $5,000 each and T. K. GIBBS at $2,000.
In due time a handsome building was erected, together with the theater,
offices, store rooms and lodge rooms, etc. The lodge room was used both
by the Knights of Pythias and the Henderson Lodge of Elks, and was the
best equipped lodge room in the state at that time, according to all reports.
The building had served its purpose for three years, two months and nine
Col. E. L. STARLING, then editor of The Gleaner, published the
The fire was first discovered by Jim CHRISTOPHER and Bob BAKER, night clerk and porter, respectively, and the alarm given. The fire department was at that moment trying to extinguish a fire at WINSTEAD'S distillery, and before they could get a part of its equipment to the downtown fire the flames had gained such headway that control of the blaze was lost.
L. H. WALKER, Dr. Arch DIXON, Jr., who had rooms in the building had narrow escapes. Dr. Arch DIXON, Jr., in attempting to descend by means of a rope got a hard fall by the breaking of the rope dropping him on the shoulders of some men in the alleyway, considerably bruising them as well as himself.
The guests of the BARRET House were all awakened and escaped with their luggage. Capt. Lloyd W. WHITLOW, the manager, was absent from the city with his family, and lost their trunks, clothing and personal belongings.
Manager Alex D. RODGERS and his family, whose rooms were in the Pythian Building, had been aroused, and made their way out as best they could, leaving their possessions to the fury of the flames.
ESTIMATE OF LOSSES
The following is the estimate of the losses sustained in the fire:
BARRET estate, loss on BARRET House and appurtenances,
$40,000; insurance $24,000.
NOW THE GRAND THEATER
The Park Theater Company in 1910 took over the new theater of the same name, this company was capitalized at $24,000 and was composed of T. A. PEDLEY, J. B. BURCH and J. G. of Owensboro.
On January 19, 1914, the Park Theater Company executed a deed to the Central Trust Company of Owensboro, Kentucky and on March 28, 1914, the property was conveyed to Henry L. Hunt of Jacksonville, Illinois at and for the sum of $19,000, the Henderson National Bank retaining a lien for the unpaid purchase money.
As the result of the suit to collect the purchase, money, the property was bid in by the Henderson National Bank for $13,500.
On August 12, 1922 the bank sold the Grand Theater property to the Henderson Theater Company, at that time composed of Thomas BASKETT, Leo BASKETT, Louis HAYES and Stewart STARLING.
Contributed by Netta Mullin, HCH&GS
Copyright 2002 HCH&GS