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Theaters of the Progressive Era

Volume 12: Gisela Walcher (2008): Theaters of the Progressive Era – Four Opera Houses in the Heartland of America

Heartland 12 / WVT 2008

ISBN 978-3-86821-095-8

€ 24,00 • $ 32,00

 

Theaters of the Progressive Era – Four Opera Houses in the Heartland of America

 

This work portrays four opera houses which were built in the heartland of America during the Progressive Era. At that time, nearly every county seat had constructed its own opera house, often for two reasons: first, the flourishing towns were in need of community centers, and the opera houses were built to meet this need. Second, the opera houses were also intended to bring culture even to remote areas. Today, very few of these Victorian opera houses still stand, and only a fraction of them have been renovated. Nowadays, these houses play a central role in the cultural life of their communities, and are to be preserved as unique historical treasures for the future.

 

In this work, a detailed elaboration on historical, social, architectural, and cultural aspects of four opera houses typical for the Progressive Era is provided. Three of them are located in the state of Michigan. They are the Traverse City Opera House, the Ramsdell Theater in Manistee, and the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts in Muskegon. The fourth house considered in the following is the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso, Indiana.

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

1. Introduction 1

 

2. The Importance of Cultural Studies in the Field of Translation 5

 

3. Research Methods 6

3.1. City Opera House  6

3.2. Ramsdell Theatre 7

3.3. Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts 7

3.4. Memorial Opera House 8

 

4. The Progressive Era 9

 

5. Traverse City – City Opera House 10

5.1. Introduction 10

5.2. Traverse City before the Turn of the 19th Century 10

5.3. Plans for a Public Hall 13

5.3.1. The Founders of the Opera House 14

5.3.2. Various Approaches 19

5.4. Construction  20

5.4.1. The Exterior of the Opera House 20

5.4.2. The Infill Building 22

5.4.3. The Interior of the Opera House 23

5.5. Opening Events 26

5.6. The Start-up Period 26

5.7. Steinberg’s Grand Opera House 29

5.8. First Renovation of 1897 31

5.8.1. Ceiling 31

5.8.2. Boxes 32

5.8.3. Further Improvements 33

5.9. Coexistence of the Steinberg’s and the City Opera House 33

5.10. Years of Abandonment  35

5.11. New Start for the City Opera House 35

5.11.1. The City Opera House Heritage Committee 35

5.11.2. Concrete Renovation Plans 36

5.11.3. Fund Raising for Phase I 38

5.11.4. Fund Raising for Phase II 38

5.11.5. A Walk through the Renovated City Opera House 40

5.11.6. Present Use 45

 

6. Manistee – The Ramsdell Theatre 46

6.1. Introduction 46

6.2. The City of Manistee at the Turn of the 19th Century 46

6.3. Plans for a New Theatre in Manistee 50

6.4. The Ramsdell Family 53

6.4.1. Thomas Jefferson Ramsdell 53

6.4.2. Nettie L. Ramsdell nŽee Stanton 58

6.4.3. Winnogene Scott nŽee Ramsdell  59

6.4.4. Frederick Winthrop Ramsdell 60

6.4.5. Robert R. Ramsdell 64

6.4.6. Thomas Ellis Ramsdell 64

6.4.7. Hellen Elisabeth Dempsey nŽee Ramsdell  65

6.4.8. Lewis Stanton Ramsdell 66

6.4.9. Marginette C. Ramsdell 67

6.4.10. Carl Gannett Ramsdell 67

6.4.11. Ruth Campbell nŽee Ramsdell  68

6.5. Solon Beman – The Architect to Realize Ramsdell’s Idea 70

6.6. Construction of the Ramsdell Theatre 71

6.6.1. Exterior of the Building 71

6.6.2. Interior of the Assembly Hall 72

6.6.3. Interior of the Theater 75

6.7. Theatre History 85

6.7.1. Opening Night 86

6.7.2. Optimistic Plans for the Future 88

6.7.3. The Early Years 88

6.7.4. The Middle Years 89

6.7.5. The Modern Era 90

6.7.6. Engagement of the Civic Players 93

6.7.7. Final Renovation 95

6.7.8. Present Use 96

6.8. Ramsdell’s Folly? – An Analysis 97

 

7. Muskegon – The Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts 101

7.1. Introduction 101

7.2. Muskegon before 1930 101

7.3. Paul J. Schlossman 104

7.4. Theater Construction 105

7.4.1. Construction Plans 106

7.4.2. Architect C.Howard Crane 106

7.4.3. Building Exterior  107

7.4.4. Theater Interior 108

7.4.5. Opening Event 111

7.5. Years of Struggle 112

7.5.1. The 1950s and 1960s 112

7.5.2. The 1970s 113

7.5.3. The 1980s 117

7.6. Decade of the Final Renovation 118

7.6.1. Prearrangements  119

7.6.2. A Millage Makes Restoration Possible 119

7.6.3. The Newly Renovated Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts 119

7.6.4. Reopening of the Frauenthal Center 124

7.7. Difficult New Start 125

7.7.1. Ambitious Plans 125

7.7.2. Professional Management Company Takes over 125

7.7.3. Promotion for the Theater 126

7.7.4. Present Use  126

 

8. Valparaiso – The Memorial Opera House 129

8.1. Introduction 129

8.2. The History of Valparaiso during the 19th Century 129

8.2.1. Valparaiso as Educational Center 130

8.2.2. Valparaiso’s Industry and Tramp System 131

8.3. The Construction of the Memorial Opera House 132

8.3.1. The Historic Cause for the Construction 132

8.3.2. Fund Raising 134

8.3.3. The Planning 135

8.4. The Start-up Period 138

8.4.1. Opening Events 139

8.4.2. GAR Management 139

8.4.3. The Heineman Era 141

8.4.4. Legal Issues – Problems Occurred 143

8.5. Years of Abandonment  146

8.6. The Community Theater Guild (CTG) 147

8.6.1. The Beginning of the CTG 147

8.6.2. Renovations 148

8.7. Renewal of the Memorial Opera House 151

8.7.1. Teething Troubles 151

8.7.2. A New Attempt  152

8.7.3. Getting the Renovation Started 153

8.8. A New Beginning for the Memorial Opera House 158

8.8.1. The First Reopening 158

8.8.2. Community Theater Guild Left behind 159

8.8.3. Present Use 160

 

9. Conclusion 162

 

A. Appendix 164

A.1. Plans of the City Opera House – Traverse City 164

A.2. Plans of the Ramsdell Theatre – Manistee 168

A.3. The Ramsdell Family Tree 174

A.4. Program “Paid in Full”, Ramsdell Theatre, 1913 175

A.5. The Ramsdell Theatre – Performance Highlights 191

A.6. Layout of the Frauenthal CenterMuskegon 205

A.7. Plan of the Frauenthal CenterMuskegon 206

A.8. Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts – Performance Highlights 207

A.9. Plans of the Memorial Opera House – Valparaiso 212

A.10.Program “Dombey and Son”, Memorial Opera House 217

A.11.High School Commencement, 1924 220

B. References 223

B.1. Books and Theses 223

B.2. Newspaper Articles  224

B.3. Internet Sources 233

B.4. Other Sources 236

B.5. Picture Sources 237

C. List of Figures 241

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