The Herald Bulletin

Afternoon Update


November 2, 2013

Big names entertained at Elwood opera houses

One remains today, other destroyed by fire


On Sept. 13, 1892, future United States President William McKinley delivered a speech from the balcony of the opera house to a crowd assembled on Anderson Street during Elwood's celebration of the opening of the American Sheet and Tin Plate plant.

Elwood's population in 1892 was reported to be 4,500. Three years later it had risen to a reported 12,000, and four years after that in 1899 it was 14,000. The rapid increase in population fueled by the gas boom had Gustav Kramer thinking the city would need a new opera house that could accommodate the increasing population and the accompanying growth in attendance at his opera house.

During 1902, the new Kramer Grand was constructed at the southwest corner of South B and South Anderson streets one block south of the opera house. As spectacular as the Elwood Opera house was, the Kramer Grand was even more so.

Builder George H. Johnson erected an eleven-hundred seat theater that would dazzle today's theater goers. A color scheme of oriental red, gold and old ivory was used throughout the spacious interior. The ceilings were in Dutch pink and sky blue panels.

The stage was 60 feet wide and 40 feet from curtain line to the back wall. The stage opening or proscenium arch was 36 feet wide and 30 feet high. Trap doors were located in the floor to be used for various purposes. Two drop curtains operated on ball bearing pulleys making them absolutely noiseless. Nine men were required to take care of the stage during a performance.

The foot-light trough contained 60 electric lights with another 45 in each of the four overhead border lights. In all, over four hundred lights illuminated the theater. Red, white and blue colored lights were used to create moonlight and sunrise effects.

The fall of the parquet main floor was designed so that every part of the building could be viewed from every seat. The foyer was a foot above stage level with the floor sloping until it was five feet below the orchestra pit.

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