Col. Conn, who was born in Ontario county, New York, Jan. 29, 1844, was brought to Elkhart when a child of 7 by his parents. Charles J. and Sarah (Benjamin) Conn, who had come west to near Three Rivers, Mich., the year before.
His father, who had been a farmer up to that time, became head of the village schools, a position he retained a quarter of a century. He served in like capacity at Laporte, Ind. For a time, but retired from the teaching profession because of increasing deafness, and following the occupation of photographer for some years just prior to his death in 1888.
The son, Charles Gerald Conn, had just passed through the grade schools when the Civil war broke out, and despite his parents protest, he volunteered for service on May 18, 1861, being mustered into service June 14, as a private in Co. B of the 15th Indiana Infantry. He was soon assigned to the regimental band. A Captain at 20 After his term of enlistment expired he returned to Elkhart, but soon afterward, on Dec. 12, 1863, enlisted at Niles, Mich. in Co. G of the 1st Michigan sharpshooters. He advanced to sergeant, then to second lieutenant on August 8, 1863, and was the companys captain at the age of 20.
During the assault on Petersburg, July 30, 1864, Capt. Conn was wounded and taken prisoner, and remained in rebel custody until the end of the war. Twice after his capture he made a dash for liberty, but each time was run down with bloodhounds, and when Shermans advance caused the rebels to shift their prisoners from Columbia, S. C., Conn and Capt. Diecy and Lieut. Randall, both of Michigan commands, caused themselves to be buried by fellow prisoners, hoping to be left behind so they could rejoin the Union forces, But their ruse was detected. Effect of a Blow on Mouth After the warhe was honorably discharged from the Union army July 28, 1865the young soldier returned to Elkhart, and in course of time embarked in the grocery and bakery business. Meanwhile he developed his musical tastes, and was an active member of the town band. The cornet was his hobby.
A blow on the mouth administered during this period by Del Crampton, a contemporary of Conns who later became his fast friend, was the foundation of the fame and fortune that later came to Conn. The blow delivered by Crampton lacerated his upper lip so severely that it appeared that Conns cornet playing was at an end.
The victim set out to devise a means whereby he could resume his favorite pastime. Incidental to his grocery business he engaged in a small way in the manufacture of rubber stamps and the plating of silverware. This required a certain knowledge of chemistry, and young Conn conceived the idea of inventing an elastic-face mouthpiece for the cornet to conform to abnormalities of the lips, and indeed, better fit the normal lips than the mouthpiece that had been in vogue. Made on a Sewing Machine He soon discovered there was a surprising demand for his invention, and the manufacture of the device grew steadily. The first products of the incipient factory were turned out on a lathe that was improvised on the discarded frame of a sewing machine. This was in 1873. As the business grew, employees were gradually added and in 1877 the inventor bought an idle factory building and launched on a more pretentious career as a manufacture of band instruments in general. This was destroyed by fire on the owners 39th birthdayJanuary 29, 1883. He at once began the erection of another, at the corner of Jackson boulevard and Elkhart avenue.
This institution, a frame structure four stories high, with a large brick secondary building, was also destroyed by fire on May 22, 1910, involving a loss variously estimated at from $100,000 to $500,000. Roy Edgerly, night watchman, lost his life in that fire. He had been a G. A. R. comrade of Col. Conn.
This fire occurred while Col. Conn was enroute to Elkhart from California, and upon his arrival here four days later he was accorded a public demonstration by way of showing popular sympathyduring which he announced his determination to build a bigger factory in northeast Elkhart. Work on this structure was started Aug. 15, 1910, and four months later, Dec. 12, all departments were in full operation under one roof.
At one of the annual public celebrations of Col. Conns birthday, Jan. 29, 1891, he announced a plan of profit-sharing with his employees. This policy resulted in the distribution of $9,000 on the following anniversary, but the co-operative system was abandoned without public explanation after two or three years. Buys Eastern Branch Factory Forty-five years ago, townspeople were much disturbed over plans they learned Mr. Conn was making to move his factory to Massachusetts. He was induced to stay by the payment of a large sum raised by popular subscription. Five years later he in a measure gratified the ambition to locate in the East by purchasing the factory and business of Isaac Fisk at Worcester, Mass., and conducting it as a branch factory for some years.
Col. Conn acquired the military title, which has ever clung to him through his relation to the Indiana Legion, which antedated the Indiana national guard. He organized in 1884 the 1st regiment of artillery in the Legion and became its colonel, a rank he also held as a member of the military staff of Gov. Isaac P. Gray. He was instrumental in the institution of Elkhart commandery, Knights Templar, and was the first commander. He also served as lieutenant colonel of the 2nd regiment of uniform rank. Knights of Pythias. He was re-elected many times to the position of commander of Elmer post, G. A. R., now Frank Baldwin post. He also held membership in the Loyal Legion, an association of officers who served in the Union army.
About five years ago the Congressional Medal of Honor was bestowed on Col. Conn, largely through the representations of his friend, the late Capt. Orville T. Chamberlain, himself a medalist. One of the chief documents submitted to congress by Capt. Chamberlain was a comment by Col. Charles V. Deland of the 1st Michigan sharpshooters in his report of Spotsylvania and the Wilderness: I take great pleasure in making honorable mention of and Second Lieut. C. G. Conn (wounded) who by their conspicuous coolness, courage and gallantry are entitled to especial comment. His Political Record In 1880, Col. Conn was elected mayor on the democratic ticket, over George W. Stevens, republican, by a vote of 810 to 614, and two years later he defeated Strafford Maxon, 740 to 693. He resigned the office before his term expired.
In 1888, ten days before the election, he was drafted in an emergency by democrats of Elkhart, Noble and Dekalb counties to make the race for joint representative and was elected overcoming a normal republican majority of some 300 in the district. He was elected to congress from the Thirteenth district in 1892 over Capt. James S. Dodge of the city, who was a member of the same G. A. R. post. Two years later he was renominated but declined to accept the nomination unless the party permitted him to make the canvass on a reform platform which he announced. The district leaders felt that they could not make conditions unanticipated by the convention that made the nomination and accepted his declination and placed Liewellyn Wanner, a lawyer at Goshen, on the ticket. Mr. Wanner was defeated by L. W. Royce of Warsaw.
At various other times Col. Conn was proposed for public office, and in 1908 he was active aspirant for the gubernatorial nomination, but lost out to Thomas R. Marshall. Two years later he was boomed for the senatorial nomination. During the last 30 years of his life he was an ardent advocate of temperance, and early espoused the pain of eliminating the saloon through remonstrance and later by ballot. Edited Washington Paper Col. Conn, who had founded the Elkhart Daily Truth on Oct. 15, 1889, became owner of the Washington Times while serving as congressman, and he personally conducted a sensational campaign against alleged vice in the capital city. Eventually he was made defendant in a big damage suit but was victorious and some time later disposed of the paper.
He continued ownership of the Elkhart Truth until it, with all his other holdings I Elkhart, was sold in 1915 to a group of capitalists headed by Carl D. Greenleaf of Wauseon, Ohio who incorporated under the title C. G. Conn, Ltd., the Conn name being retained as a trademark in the band instrument industry. A few months later Mr. Greenleaf and A. H. Beardsley acquired sole ownership of The Truth.
In addition to developing the band instrument industry here, Col. Conn was interested in various business projects from time to time. He planned a great hydraulic system for the northeast portion of the city and spent much money in the preliminaries, but this enterprise was never consummated. He was interested in the early day electric light and power systems here and in 1904 constructed a powerhouse and electric light system as a competitor of the Indiana & Michigan Electric Co., which a few months later brought his interest at a great sacrifice to him.
In April, 1911, Col. Conn and wife executed a trust deed for $200,000 covering all their possessions for the purpose of bonding the Conn indebtedness and securing working capital, the longest bond to mature in ten years. The deed included, in addition to the horn factory and what was then known as the Angledile Scale factory and The Truth., some 60 descriptions of real estate in Elkhart and vicinity various real estate mortages, 125 shares of stock in the Simplex Motor Car Co of Mishawaka, a sea-going yacht, a lake motor launch and much valuable personal property.
When the C. G. Conn, Ltd. Corporation took over the Conn property, there was reserved the Strong avenue residence where Mrs. Conn remained. Col. Conn had spent practically all the time since in southern California.
He returned to Indiana in the summer of 1926 for a brief visit to the sister a Bristol and to Elkhart friends. (The Elkhart Truth, January 6, 1931)
The C.G. Conn Company: A Retrospective by Margaret Downie Banks, click here.
A Breaf History of the Conn Company (1874-present) by Margaret Downie Banks, Ph.D. click here.
Go back to top Franklin Miles M.D.
Dr. Franklin Miles
AT AGE OF 84 Dr. Franklin Miles, founder and president of the Dr. Miles Medical co. of Elkhart, one of the moat important concerns of its kind in the United States, died at 10:50 this morning at his home in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 84 years old.
Death followed a protracted illness due to the infirmities of age, and a local relative had been aware of several days that the end might be expected at any moment.
World of his passing was received in a telegram to Dr. J. B. Porter, who was Electa Miles, a daughter of Dr. Miles. She and the other immediate relatives had been summoned to his bedside some time ago.
The telegram stated that brief services would be held at the Florida home tomorrow morning, and that the funeral party would depart for Elkhart at 9:40 a. m. Tuesday, arriving here Thursday. It is believed that the body will be taken to Grace Lawn cemetery direct from the train, Dr. Porter said this afternoon. Firm World Famed Dr. Miles, who located at Elkhart in 1875 to engage in the practice of medicine, and remained a resident of Elkhart until he went to Florida in 1906 because of impaired health, was the founder of the Dr. Miles Medical Co. This concern was organized in 1884 for the manufacture and sale of remedies he had discovered while in the general practice of medicine, the result of original investigations by the doctor, who was an indefatigable student and worker. The name of that company and its products have become widely known in every state of America and in foreign countries.
In 1891 he established the Grand Dispensary Co. with headquarters first in Elkhart and later in Chicago, to take over his general practice by correspondence, which extended to all parts of the United States and other countries. This business was given up after his health began to fail. Bought 10,000 Acres In Florida for health and recreation, Dr, Miles considered Lee county an undiscovered country, an account of its attractive climate. He purchased 10,000 acres of land along the Caloosahatchee river near the city of Fort Myers. A considerable part of this tract he cleared and planted. He found much pleasure in experimenting in the scientific production of different fruits and vegetables. Not far distant is the winter home of Thomas A. Edison, where the great inventor is seeking his solution of a rubber producing plant that will be commercially profitable.
Prior to coming to Elkhart 54 years ago, Dr. Miles had practiced medicine in Chicago for a period after having devoted 12 years to collegiate and professional training. He attended Williston seminary at East Hampton, Mass., Phillips academy at Andover, Mass., Sheffield Scientific school of Yale college at new Haven, Conn., the Law department of Columbia college in New York City, the Medical department of the University of Michigan, Rush Medical college at Chicago, the Chicago Medical college, and the Illinois Eye and Ear infirmary. He was author of many scientific treatises on the eye, brain, heart and nervous system. Born in Ohio Born at Olmsted Falls near Cleveland, Ohio, on Nov. 15, 1845, he became a student at Williston seminary in 1862. He took the scientific course at Yale and the law course at Columbia, all with the purpose of embarking in the practice of law, but, having developed a strong tendency for a medical career, he decided to change his line of study and entered the medical school at Ann Arbor. At the time of his death Dr. Miles was president of the Dr. Miles Medical Co. of Elkhart, a director of the First National Bank of Fort Myers and president of the Lee County Truckers association.
Some years ago he built the Tavern a Christiana lake and otherwise developed that resort, which he disposed of in course of time and which is now owned and operated by Francis Compton. While a resident of Elkhart he purchased and extensively remodeled the former Eber Darling residence property at the southwest corner of Franklin and Fourth streets, now the property of the Fort Wayne diocese of the Catholic church. Leaving Three Children Surviving Dr. Miles beside his wife, Elizabeth A. State Miles, to whom he married July 17, 1895, are three children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. The children are Charles F. Miles of Fort Myers and Mrs. Marian H. Collins and Mrs. J. B. Porter of Elkhart. The grandchildren are Franklin B. Miles, Charles F. Miles, Jr., Elizabeth Miles, Edward Miles, Frank M. Cleveland and Cathryn Collins Keller. The great-grandchildren are Carlie Electa Cleveland and Kathlyn Ann Keller. There is also a foster daughter, Mrs. Louise Miles Bass, of Fort Myers. Dr. Miles was married to Miss Ellen Douglas Lighthall, on April 4, 1873. She died Aug. 24, 1881, survived by the children above named. One child, Frances Teresa, who died in infancy, was born to the second union. The widow is the sister of James H. State, Elkhart attorney.
Dr. Miles was descended from a line of distinguished ancestors extending back on the paternal side to Richard Miles, who settled in New England in 1637. On the maternal side his mother, Electa A. Lawrence Miles, traced her ancestry back to the dukes of Normandy, and to Robert Lawrence, who lived in Lancastershire, England, about 1150. Dr. Miles was of the ninth generation of family in America. Two of his ancestors served as captains in the Colonial wars and one in the Revolutionary war. His more immediate ancestors were among the earliest settlers in northern Ohio. Of New England Ancestry His father, Charles Julius Miles, was clerk of the Ohio legislature, a merchant and for many years supervisor of the port of Honolulu, Sandwich islands.
Richard Miles, deputy of New Haven, whose connection with New England history dates back almost 300 years, came from Hertfordshire, England, and took a prominent part in the affairs of Boston, Milford and new Haven.
John Lawrence, founder of the American branch of the family of Dr. Miles mother, come from England and settled at Watertown, Mass., early in the 17th century. A great-grandfather, Major Lorenzo Carter, arrived at Cleveland, O., as early as 1796, establishing a trading post and building and operating the first hotel. He was also part owner of the first lake vessel owned at the port. This vessel became a unit of the historic war fleet of commodore Perry which gained the famous victory over the English fleet in the battle of Lake Erie. Major Carter wielded great influence with the Indians. His daughter, Laura, grandmother of Dr. Miles, was the first white child born in Cleveland. His Elkhart Career After coming to Elkhart at the age of 30 years and establishing himself as a young physician, Dr. Miles for a number of years had his office in an upstairs room on Jackson street between Main and Second. Later, at the time he established the Grand Dispensary, he had a suite in the building at the northwest corner of Main and Marion, and still later, after moving the Dispensary back from Chicago, in what is now the Pharmanette building. At the time the Grand Dispensary was discontinued the headquarters were in the top floor of the Monger building.
During his early practice her, Dr. Miles conceived the idea of organizing a proprietory concern to manufacture and market his remedies. He met with but little success in his endeavors to interest his acquaintances in his enterprise.
He desired to incorporate with a capitalization of $1,500 offering to put into it his proprietary rights and $500 cash and seeking two other persons willing to invest $500 each. Joined by Druggist, Miller After encountering refusals by several local residents, he finally persuaded Albert R. Burns, a druggist, and George E. Compton, a miller, both now deceased, to join him in the venture. Mr. Burns eventually sold his interest to the late Albert R. Beardsley, but Mr. Compton always refused to dispose of his holdings. The wisdom of his course is apparent to all who are aware of the remarkable prosperity of the company. The companys real growth began in the latter 80s, and in 1891 the first portion of its present large laboratory on Franklin street was erected. The enlarged facilities which that building afforded proving a great stimulus in its development to its present proportions.
After the company had become well established, Dr. Miles severed active relations in its relations in its management, devoting his energies more especially to the Grand Dispensary until he deemed it advisable to spend a portion of his year in Florida. Finally he ceased returning to Elkhart except for brief visits in the summer time. (The Elkhart Truth, April 1, 1929) Go back to top Herbert E. Bucklen Herbert E. Bucklen is a striking example of American citizenship, with a busy brain, a clear head, and with a might, and self-poise, seldom met with; with large side head which makes him a financier and manufacturer, and a master of matters that interests individuals, and being orderly and systematic in thought and work, he is able to bring his power to bear in a way that commands respect and awakens fear, -true to his friends, and a generous hater of what he believes should be antagonized, and being a man of large human nature, he has a special gift in understanding others, and can adapt his work and conversation to them. He knows whether or not he can be familiar or must stand off, which characteristic does not belong to one of mediocre human nature development. In the world of business we find great use for this organ, whether as a hotel man, manufacturer, railway man or leader in gigantic projects. Though people may be of rude manners and little education, if they possess this organ of development, they get on well, because it supplies them with correct impressions, experience proving that they do best when following their first judgment.
The facts that lead up to Mr. Bucklens present high plane of financial standing are few, simple, and easily recited, which all the more fortifies our allegation that he was born with a prodigiously developed human nature, for no man reaches his eminence before meridian life, unless endowed as above recited. To be phrenologically truthful, the subject of our sketch must have been born great, and therefore comes of a strong ancestral line, though that strength might not have been noticeable in his near ancestors, but will be found in those more remote.
He was born at Winfield, N. Y. July 19th, 1848; was accorded an average business education, and was then placed in his fathers drug house to do what the average clerk is expected in such a local business. Before young Bucklen had attained his majority, he gave signs of promise of a brilliant future by his assiduity, close attention to his business, and an indomitable energy seldom met with in one of his tender years, caring for nothing in the way of dissipation and frittering away of time, as is common among youths generally-his sole end and aim being to scale the ladder of financial fame and to consummate which, he did not hunt out devious and tortuous ways, but proceeded direct against the ramparts that obstructed his way with a never flagging energy, and a belief that obstacles were made to be overcome by perpetual, continued hammering at on place until they would crumble, and whether or not his elevated financial station be a vindication of his methods of warfare, and our logic of the mans make-up; we leave our readers to judge.
Somewhere about 1870, and while he was yet in the drug store, Elkhart was preparing to lay aside village toggery, and dress in city raiment. All eyes were being turned towards us by reason of our great, underdeveloped water power, the Lake Shore Shops, and a general outside aspect that one day this must be a great town. Herb, as he is familiarly called, caught on, his acumen, and far-sightedness, telling him, before the old fogies had got out of bed and hung away their night shirts, that real estate must sooner or later be in demand, with the accent on sooner, and straightway he went into buying up outside lots, because a good many could be had for a small sum, and if we are correct about his first venture was the triangular lot located at the intersection of Franklin and Vistula on the west, and whether or not he quadrupled his money those who want to purchase to-day can best learn.
But Elkhart, though the place of his parental home, it was quite apparent was too small, people too slow, and cash too scarce to satiate his thirst for fame, and finance, and he began to look the field over for a method or a business which would nail his name to the Poles of the Earth, paint it on every rock and barn where humanity existed and print it in every newspaper from North America to Van Diemans Land; and around the World from New York to London.-He found it.
Our space is too much abridged to go into detail of all this mans investments in this village at this time, for measured by those since he arrived at mans estate, they are lilliputian, and insignificant, and though they would have placed him in affluence, as the country rustic understands opulence; that affluence would in no manner have satiated his yearnings, or been in any manner commensurate with his sagacity, or competency to shade any thing he might have done herein a word a man to spread and grow, must go where the soil is prolific, and attendant circumstances favorable for such growth, and leaving Elkhart for greener fields, he but loaned corroborative evidence of what we have alleged-born greatness and prescience of men and affairs.
His scientific knowledge of drugs he decided to turn to account, and knowing that so long as people exist, sickness must exist, he fell on the proposition that a man must produce for the millions or the millionaires, if he would double the golden horn and load his coffers with the shekels; and acting on his judgment in this as in all else, he struck boldly into the stream to sink or swim; survive or perish by catering to the millions because they were more plentiful than the millionairesherd again the verdict is acumen.
Without going into detail we may say, everybody in the civilized world knows or has heard of Bucklens Proprietary Medicines, and if he has not he must live on the Dark Continent where Stanley now is, or some other equally remote and uncivilized region.
But Mr. Bucklen began to weary of going it alone and single handed, so he paid court to an estimable young lady, the daughter of the Hon. George Redfield, of Cass, Mich., and being an acceptable suitor, won the fair lady, and they were married in the summer of 1877, and Miss Bertha Redfield became Mrs. Herbert E. Bucklen; the pair setting up housekeeping in Chicago, where they now reside with three children, the fruits of the union.
Though Mr. Bucklens holdings in Chicago are very valuable, reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in real estate, his laboratory being among the elegant edifices of the City, yet he has never forgotten his home City, nor withheld a lavish generosity towards her embellishments, and her business demands. He is one of the few, who, in opulence do not forget their native hamlet, and who while living, undertakes to plant the monumental shaft that he may see and enjoy it before going hence, knowing full well he can neither see nor hear in his final home of six by two. To-day Melpomene stands in front of the temple at the corner of Main and Harrison, that he and all may see his monument, and the Muse as if cognizant of the fact, looks as if to announce to the passer-by Bucklens Opera House, which is a thousand times more sensible than a sandstone shaft in Grace Lawn, which can only remind the living on stated occasions that once there lived a man here whose name was Herbert E. Bucklen, while on the other hand Melpomene daily plants on our lips Bucklenthat is the difference between ornamenting your town and decorating your cemetery, though be it said of a truth, there be some denizens among us who are worth more for the latte decoration, being worth nothing for the Citys. Next, when the new railway was projected, Mr. Bucklen with his accustomed alacrity, stepped to the fore, proffered his aid and the work proceeded, then when complaint began to pour in that our hotel accommo- dations were inadequate to afford entertainment in keeping with our demands, the gentleman purchased the Clifton House, and before the ink in the deed was fairly dried, he had a architect on the ground to begin the remodeling, which hostelry, when completed, will be the peer of anything of its kind between Chicago and Buffalo, with Steam, Electric lights, Elevators and all the concomitants, and belongings of the most modern hotel; the spacious dining hall is most elegantly finished in antique oak, with panel stucco work overhead, its grates are surmounted with mirrors, its side-board is done in the highest style of art, and seating comfortably one hundred guests, at once shades only hostelry outside the great cities. The halls, parlors, office, and writing room, are frescoed overhead, floored in caustic tiling and wainscoted in antique oak; the mantle and grate for the office alone costing five hundred dollars. The basement is tiled in rectangular marble, contains both private and public baths, and if there is anything omitted from basement to attic, or that does not harmonize in garniture to the satisfaction of the most critical critic, it is because it has escaped the eye of the artist, whose business it was to see that the hotel wanted nothing that money would purchase, to make it truly a travelers home, and if it lacks, it is no fault of Mr. Bucklen, who will have close to an hundred thousand dollars in the Hotel Bucklen when completed, which inauguration is billed to take place March 20th, 1889. (Manual of Elkhart 1889) Go back to top The Bucklen Opera House Before the Bucklen Opera House opened on September 30, 1884 on the northwest corner of Main and Harrison Streets, occasional stage shows were preformed at the Broderick Opera House located on the second floor of 125-127 S. Main Street. After the Bucklen opened with its seating capacity of 1200 there was usually a stage show there once a week and at times a stock company would play for an entire week. Since Elkhart is located on the New York-Chicago railroad line, it was an ideal stop for top notch theatrical troupes to perform one last gig before opening in Chicago. Consequently, the people of Elkhart and near by towns were treated to the best entertainment in the country.
When the Bucklen Opera House opened it replaced the Broderick Opera House as the cultural center of Elkhart. It is not clear what high school functions took place at the Broderick, but from 1884 until 1924 when Elkhart High School built its own auditorium, the high school held its graduating ceremonies, school plays, and other school performances at the Bucklen Opera house, or as it later became known, the Bucklen Theater. The first movie shown in Elkhart was shown at the Bucklen in 1896, admission charge: ten cents for the main floor, five cents for the balcony. The last movie was show in 1956. The theater was demolished in 1986.
In the nineteenth century architecture was at times done on a grand scale. The Bucklen Opera House was by far no exceptions. Elkhart might have been moderate in size, but it had a few giant ideas. The Bucklen Opera House and five years later the Bucklen Hotel were two of them. Description of the Bucklen Opera house
From the Elkhart Review, October 1, 1884 The Bucklen Opera House, which now graces the principal street of our city, is an edifice that reflects credit upon all who have been identified with its design and erection, and is a source of pride to every resident of Elkhart. It stands a monument alike to the enterprise of the proprietors and the skill of the builders. It was the out-growth of the popular voices for a commodious, perfectly safe and thoroughly artistic place of public amusement, and though the need was long felt, and more than once the enterprise seemed on the eve of consummation, until the present company of gentlemen took the matter in hand it as often proved a failure. The project had been canvassed until it palled on the public ear, and the regular report that a new opera house was to be built the coming summer became devoid of interest. It was scouted.
After the construction of the house was decided upon, work began at once, in August of 1883, and has been pushed as rapidly as possible. Whatever delays have occurred are attributed to failure in securing material; but even those have been few. It is located upon the corner of Main and Harrison streets, is 83 x 161 feet and is built in the most substantial manner, the stonework being laid in one-fourth cement. Good judges who witnessed its construction expressed the conviction that it was not defective in a single particular. The footing-course is 14 inches thick and 3 ½ feet wide; the piers all rest on cement footings; the brick walls above the stone foundation are 20 inches thick, and special attention has been paid to the timbering of the safest structures in the country. The front elevation is modern in architecture, and is surmounted by a dome 45 feet in height, covered with slate. A flag staff 25 feet high, at the extremity of which plays a fine golden weather vane, rises above the dome. From the tip of the vane to the pavement is 142 feet, a very considerable distance. The front is constructed of Elkharts best manufactured of bricks, highly ornamented with cut stone and galvanized iron. At the base of the dome is to be placed an elegant iron statue nine feet high, which is now being constructed.
The interior is approached through a grand entrance twelve inches above the street elevation, sixteen feet wide and forty feet in length. In the main entrance, at the right, is the box office, a master-piece of workmanship, by Jacob Werntz of this city. In common with the entire main entrance, it is built of white and red oak. The office is nicely carpeted, furnished with chairs and has a cloak room. The glass is all ground, and ornamented with special designs. Before entering the auditorium are two grand stair cases leading to the balcony where a successful endeavor has been made to give an unobstructed view from every seat to the stage. The balcony is surrounded by a fine iron railing made by Henry Diblee & Co., Chicago. The parquet and parquet circle are in the shape of an amphitheatre, and the elevation between the seats is sufficient to afford an excellent view of the stage. On each side of the proscenium are private boxes and loges, six in all. The parquet and orchestra pit are separated by an ornamented brass rail, inlaid with plush, neatly designed. The parquet is also divided from the parquet circle by a rail inlaid with cardinal plush.
The stage is 40 feet deep, 57 ½ feet wide and 57 feet to the rigging loft. The scenery and set-pieces are complete and beautiful, and were by Noxen, Albert & Toomey, of St. Louis, and are said by connoisseurs to be as fine as any similar work west of New York. On the south side of the stage and opening on Harrison street, are five dressing rooms, and beneath the stage are four more, nine in all. At the sides of the stage are fly galleries, and the rigging loft is supplied with machinery for the instantaneous shifting of scenery. The stage is fully equipped with a bridge, three mechanical traps, and all other modern conveniences for the presentation of scenic effects. There is a complete system of signal tubes so that every part of the building is in communication. It is also arranged so that one individual can instantly control the lights in any part of the house.
The heating is done with low pressure steam, which insures a mild and equal temperature in all portions of the house. Safety is the first consideration, and the boiler in the basement is co constructed that the fire is entirely surrounded by water, while it is automatically arranged so that only one pound of steam can be raised during a performance. Each room is provided with coil pipe radiators artistically bronzed and decorated. The building contains over on mile of pipe, which was put in by A. Harvey & son of Detroit. The gas fixtures are neat and were made by Vosburg of Brooklyn, and selected by Messrs. Bucklen and Vanderlip when they went east a short time ago.
The vestibule and proscenium chandeliers and brackets are gold plated, and the globes are trimmed with prisms of the latest designs. The lights throughout the auditorium are controlled from the stage, and their number aggregates 250. Both the auditorium and roof of the stage are supplied with ventilators, as well as the dome, the whole being governed by a contrivance at the back of the stage by which means foul air, powder and tableau smoke can be expelled.
The parquet and parquet circle are seated with patent folding chairs of latest pattern, covered with maroon plush and manufactured by Thos. Kane & Co., of Chicago. The chairs are all provided with foot-rest, hat racks, umbrella and coat racks. The first two rows, and all back of those are perforated. The seating capacity is one thousand.
The exits are numerous, and are on a level with the street. The entire house can be emptied in two minutes the combined width of the exits being 39 feet.
The decorations are rich and harmonious in design, and were purchased of William Campbell & Co., of New York. The main panels of the ceiling are of light blue and cream colors, relieved by extensions and borders in conventional figures, and give the auditorium a bright and attractive appearance. The side walls are an olive shade, and will be still further ornamented with ten beautiful stages celebrities, now being painted by H. H. Harris, of Chicago. The aisles and lobbies are covered with body Brussels carpet, of elegant designs, the boxes and loges with velvet, and the stairs with heavy matting, while the dressing-rooms are carpeted with ingrain and furnished with all conveniences that an artist can desire. The stage has two carpets, one green, the other cardinal, and handsome sets of furniture. The boxes are draped with curtains of cardinal and peacock blue, heavy twilled silk linings, and are trimmed with very broad and elegant fringes. The lambrequins are trimmed with heavy fringes, very rich in quality, and with heavy tassels. The box fronts are trimmed with gold and copper. The large cove around the dome is beautifully ornamented with flowers and fruits. The top of the dome is surrounded with cathedral glass, made by Kinsella, of Chicago.
One of the most noticeable decorations is the life-size oil painting entitled Mercy pleading for the Vanquished, at the top of the proscenium and painted by Mr. Harris. The drop curtain is a beautiful work of art, being a Venetian scene with drapery of satin and maroon plush.
The architect of the building was Mortimer L. Smith of Detroit, whose experience in Europe as will as America has well fitted him for the position he enjoys in his profession. Messrs. Noxon, Albert & Toomey, the scenic artists, have here performed a work well worthy their fame. The galvanized work was done by Meyer & Pohlman of South Bend and received the personal attention of Mr. Pohlman. It is excellent in every respect.
Much credit is due Messrs. Bucklen, Brodrick, Dodge and Willard for the taste displayed by them in selecting materials and make-up of the draperies purchased of Marshal Fields & Com., Chicago. Mr. Maxon is entitled to all credit for the arrangement of the ventilators. The inside decoration have been done under the supervision of Mr. Vanderlip, and were in part executed by him. He has also superintended the galvanized iron work, and it is largely due to his indefatigable labor and artistic taste that jour people are able to enjoy this beautiful resort. The gas fitting was done by Borneman & Doll, the brick by Mr. Seiler. The cost of the building approximated $100,000. (The Elkhart Review 1884) Opening Night at the Bucklen Opera House
September 30, 1884 Over the Garden Wall was written for Mr. and Mrs. Knight, and is full of situations calculated to bring out the pecularities of each as actors. The synopsis is as follows: Meyer Snitz, a German of considerable means and no influence, was left a fortune by his father, on condition that he lead a sober life; and in the event of his drinking, the estate to pass under the control of his wife absolutely. Mrs. Snitz was constantly on the alert to detect her husband, and Mr. Snitz to overcome the watchfulness on the part of his wife calls as his aid an impecunious young man about town, Tom Tracy, who acts to an advance guard during these occasions when Snitz is overcome. Residing in the family of Snitz is the nephew, Meyer, who has recently married a young lady of more poverty than good sense, and proposes to her that she live wing her mother until he secured a situation as his uncle will not support him should he learn of his marriage. In the course of events Myer becomes a father. Here was the dilemma. They must conceal the child. This is done; Mr. Specklewot, a neighbor, consents, on condition that the babys board is regularly paid. Meyer has no money. The baby is sent back in a basket. Mrs. Snitz at once conjectures that it is her husbands. From this point matters become painful. The real secret finally comes out but not till there has been considerable trouble.
Over the Garden Wall cannot be classed as genteel comedy, but belongs rather to the variety order, and as such might have been pleasing to a different audience, but was hardly up to the standards of the one at the new Opera House last night, nor was it equal to the talent of Mr. and Mrs. Knight and their excellent support. It was disappointing, and he artists suffered because of the disappointment. The remembrance of Mr. and Mrs. Knight in Otto was such as to cause an expectancy of greater pleasure, and it is to be regretted that that play or Baron Rudolph had not been substituted for the opening night. (The Elkhart Review 1884) Brief History of the Bucklen Opera House
From the Elkhart Truth January 18, 1923 The lot on which the Bucklen theatre stands- 82 1/2 x 165-was sold for $35 in 1844, then virgin forest. Three years later it sold for $40, and in 1856 it was bought for $850 by Eli and Mary Hilton. The Hiltons erected and maintained for many years a tavern, reached from the main part of town by a path through the woods. Mary Hilton, widow, sold the east half of the lot, containing the ramshackle tavern to Peter Behler in 1870, for $4,000, and on May 6, 1873, Behler sold it for $6,000 to H. E. Bucklen who brought the west half of Mrs. Hilton in 1882, for $2,000. Thus property Mr. Bucklen acquired for $8,000 become the basis for his controlling interest in the Elkhart Opera House Co., which paid him $15,000 in its stock when it bought the site in 1883. The taxable valuation of the lot today is $20,000, and the taxable valuation of the building $26,000. The theatre, by the way, has a width of but two-thirds of the façade, the other one-third having been erected to conform by the late J. W. Wilder. R. C. Barney is the present owner of this addition. The theatre building proper is now owned John W. Fieldhouse, who began acquiring stock of the Elkhart Opera House Co. in 1886, and became sole owner when, September 5, 1917, he bought Mr. Bucklens large holdings from the trustees of his estate.
The organization of the Elkhart Opera House Co., July 31, 1883, was the result of long agitation, and appeal to public spirit. H.E. Bucklen was chosen president; Jacob Zook, vice president; Norman Sage, treasurer; W. B. Vanderlin, secretary; William Gravit, Strafford Maon and Mr. Vanderlip, the building committee, and H. C. Dodge and E. P. Willard the other two directors. Stock Certificate No. 1, for 10 shares, $500, was issued October 16, 1883 to John K. Bose, in part payment for the 100,000 brick in the structure. The next issue of stock took place January 14, 1884, 500 shares, to Mr. Bucklen. Altogether 861 shares of stock were sold to 62 original owners, many of them material dealers. The authorized capitalization was $50,000.
Work on the building proper began early in October 1883, under the superintendency of E. B. Saxon of Coldwater, Mich., who was paid $4.50 per day. Contracts for details were let week by week. Mortimer L. Smith of Detroit was the architect. The building is one of the most substantially constructed in the city, and when completed was reputed t be worth $100,000. The theatre was opened September 30, 1884, with a variety show by Mr. and Mrs. George S. Knight entitled, Over the Garden Wall.
J. L. Brodrick was lessee from October 1, 1884, until 1885. Then Dave Carpenter, long the stage manager, became lessee, and in 1906 was succeeded by Harry G. Sommers of New York, who in 1911 took another lease running to 1921. Fred S. Timmins was Mr. Sommers local representative the first six years, and Ned K. Miller the next two; the contract being turned over to the Popular Amusement Co., a local organization, August 18, 1914 and Fred Palmer became its manager. Harry Lerner acquired control of the Popular Amusement Co. and has been manager since October 23, 1915. No lessee ever made any profit till the advent of the movie.
The theatre was remodeled in 1911 at a cost of $32,000, and United States Senator J. W. Kern made a brief address on the occasion of the re-opening Friday, November 3, 1911.
Because of Elkharts advantageous location on the Chicago-New York trunk line, is has been possible to show many of the foremost theatrical attractions here. As late as 1900 the directors of the owning company formally voted to refuse to allow any political party to hold meetings in the theatre. In 1908 they agreed to permit political meetings for a bonus of $50 and religious meetings for a bonus of $1: liquidated damages. Bibliography
Historical facts about the Bucklen Opera House can be found in the Elkhart Public Library in the following publications:
The Elkhart Review, October 1, 1884.
Taproots of Elkhart History written by Emil V. Anderson and published by the Elkhart Truth, May, 1949.
The Elkhart Truth, January 18, 1923.
One Hundred Graduating Classes: A History of Elkhart High School written by John A. Stinespring and published by the Elkhart Area Career Center.
Elkhart: A Pictorial History written by George E. Riebs and published by G. Bradley Publishing, St. Louis, Missouri.
Go back to top The Elco Theater The Elco Theater opened as the Learner Theater on Thanksgiving Day, November 27, 1924. In 1931 the theater was taken over by Warner Brothers who operated it under the name The Warner until 1934 when it was leased to the Illinois-Indiana Theater Company. The theaters name was changed that year to the Elco Theater after a nation-wide contest. The following article appeared in The Elkhart Truth, November 26, 1924. DOORS OF NEW
$500,000 Structure, seating
2,200, Combines Modern
Amusement Devices With
Maximum Safety Tomorrow at 12:30 the doors of Elkharts handsome new amusement place, the Lerner theater, will be opened to the public. The first show will start at 1 oclock. First on the program will be A Trip Though Kimballville, an organ specialty which brings into play every part of the new $23,000 Kimball concert organ, S. L. Stambaugh playing. The feature picture will be The Navigator, with Buster Keaton. Five acts of vaudeville will include Brengks Golden Horse; A Study in Contrast, introducing the large and the small in the amusement world; The Love Nest, in which four boys and a girl sing Melodious Nonsense, a talking and dancing act; and the Hamsel Sisters and Strass, the latter for years a feature cornet soloist with Sousas band.
Price for the afternoon and evening shows will be 15 cents for children under 12 years; 35 cents for balcony seats and 50 cents for main floor and loge seats.
No seats have been reserved and none will be reserved for the opening day. The new theater is regarded not only as an example of beautiful architectural simplicity but as a playhouse of maximum comfort and safety for patrons. It is as near fire proof as human ingenuity can make it, being built entirely of reinforced concrete, brick and steel. A greater part of the furnishings, ordinarily inflammable, have been treated with fireproofing chemicals.
ROOM FOR CHILDREN
Among the many new departures to be found in the interior is a fully equipped nursery in the basement where mothers may turn their children over to a competent nurse while they enjoy the show. And the nurse, Mill Sarah Sheder, has been provided with a veritable toyland to amuse the children. There are mans and womens retiring rooms, beautiful and comfortable furnished, on the second floor leading from a beautifully gilded semi-inclosed foyer Here to is a spacious reception room for both men and women.
The building proper has a Main street frontage of 105 feet and a depth of 165 feet. The Main Street façade of beautifully designed polychrome terra cotta, rises to a height of 68 feet. With its four massive columns and a great illuminated canopy over the sidewalk, it makes a most imposing appearance. The spacious lobby is flanked with Traventine marble imported from Italy. The foyer is gilded and glass enclosed. The huge auditorium, with its wonderful dome, the simple but beautiful color scheme of gilt, soft shades of blue and cream with the great damask panels, the soft velvety carpets and costly draperies, and the myriads of lights encased in gorgeous fixtures and invisible illuminating mechanism, all serve to accentuate the beauty of this modern place of amusement. There is the tinge of the Orient mingled with the Occidental in the beautiful mural decorations. What is known in theatrical parlance as the Adams design was used throughout the new playhouse.
The new theater has a seating capacity of 2,200. The lower floor contains 1,300 seats, the balcony and loge, 900 seats, all of the latest designed, and built with the idea foremost of maximum comfort to patrons. Seven double door exits make it possible to empty the house in little more than a minute.
12 DRESSING ROOMS
The stage, 85 by 23 feet, with an opening of 44 feet into the auditorium, is equipped with the famous Peter Clark mechanical system of counter weights making the handling of the heaviest and most elaborate scenery a comparatively easy task. All of the 12 dressing rooms are equipped with hot and cols running water and with every other convenience for actor or actress. Manager Lerner has not overlooked the psychology of providing the best for talent from whom he expect the best.
Patrons will find that hundreds of mushroom shaped devises puncture the concrete floors under the seats. These give forth warm air during the cold months and cool air during the heated periods from the most modern heating and ventilating systems, installed in a separate building just north of the theater proper and joining that structure with four single-story modern store fronts on West Franklin street.
It would be impossible to enumerate all the advanced ideas that have been incorporated into the structure. In addition to the huge dome at the top of the big auditorium, there is a like opening under the balcony also containing a several toned lighting effect. However, beauty alone was not what prompted the architects to include this in their plans. It has a value from the acoustics standpoint second in importance only to the major dome. The architects claim that this, coupled with the meshed wires in the wall, make it possible to hear as well in the last seat in the balcony as anywhere on the main floor. Another modern idea is the installation of an elaborate cleaning system. Especially designed contrivances permit the daily cleaning process to go into every nook and corner of the big building.
BUILDERS AND STAFF
Actual construction work on the new theater started April 1 after about four weeks had been devoted to wrecking the buildings that then occupied the site. R. H. Solitt & Sons of Chicago were the general contractors; Vitzthum & Burns of Chicago, the architects; W. H. Dreves of this city had the plumbing contract; and the Charles S. Drake Co. of Elkhart furnished the carpets and the furniture. Other subcontracts were filled by outside firms.
The house staff personnel is as follows: Harry E. Lerner, owner and manager; Harry Bloom, assistant manager and publicity agent; Mrs. Hazel Richman, cashier; S. L. Stambaugh, organist; Harry Wiley, orchestra director; Don McClelian, stage manager; Clarence Slawson, house electrician; and John Lerner, head doorman. There will be 10 uniformed usherettes.
Mr. Lerner has turned over the management of the Bucklen theater, of which he is lessee, to his brother, Walter R. Lerner. Miss Annabelle Mann succeeds Mrs. Richman as cashier at the Bucklen and Christopher Lerner succeeds John Lerner as doorman. Franc Silkwood Grover remains as organist, with Mrs. Martha Jasserich as assistant.
Mr. Lerner today said the new theater project represented an investment of $750,000, which includes the realty value. The theater itself represents over $500,000, Mr. Lerner asserts. Mr. Lerner financed the project and no stock or bonds were offered for sale.
Mr. Lerner came to Elkhart from South Bend on October 23, 1915, when he acquired the controlling interest in the Popular Amusement Co., Inc., lessees of the Bucklen theater. He formerly was manager of the LaSalle theater in South Bend. Later, in addition to his Elkhart interests, he was manager of the Oliver theater of South Bend when the lease of that theater was taken over by the Palace company. He gave up that position to devote his entire attention to his Elkhart interests.
NEW BUCKLEN POLICY To Be Operated as a Straight
The Popular Amusement Co., operating the Bucklen, announces a change in police commencing tomorrow, when the theater will be known as a straight picture house, showing photoplays exclusively, and at the popular price of 10, 20 and 30 cents, except for a number of special pictures booked before the change.
The last vaudeville bill was presented Sunday night and in the future two hour picture shows, with a continuous program from 1 to 11, will be the attractions, the bill changing three times a week.
Only pictures on the better class will be booked for the Bucklen and released dates will be far in advance of the previous policy, insuring the photoplay lover of Elkhart the best pictures and at early showings, the management said today. Go back to top
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