Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category
“Burn the theatre,” was the first thing Edman Spangler heard following John Wilkes Booth’s infamous fatal shot on April 14, 1865. Edman Spangler, sometimes known as Ned or Edmund, was a carpenter at Ford’s Theatre and was an acquaintance of Booth’s, occasionally caring for the actor’s horse which was stabled behind the Washington D.C. playhouse. He claimed to have no knowledge of Booth’s escape route, but his story is contradicted by another stagehand working that night. Jake Rittersback claims Spangler told him to keep quiet when the two spoke after the assassination.
This and other damning testimony about his Confederate leanings and distaste for the president lead to his eventual arrest and sentencing of six years in jail. He traveled on the USS Florida to Fort Jefferson with Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen, three other Booth co-conspirators.
On December 25, 1868 President Andrew Johnson pardoned the four convicts. Edman Spangler returned to Baltimore with Samuel Arnold and went to work as a carpenter at the Holliday Street Theatre for John T. Ford, his former boss and the previous owner of Ford’s Theatre. In 1873 the Holliday burned down and Spangler moved to Dr. Samuel Mudd’s farm in what is now Waldorf, MD where he lived out his final years. He is buried two miles from the Mudd residence in the St. Peter’s Church burial ground.
The Holliday Street Theatre used to be located directly across from Baltimore’s City Hall, at the present site of War Memorial Plaza. Junius Brutus Booth, the father of John Wilkes Booth, made his first American appearance in the historic playhouse, as did Francis Key’s Star-Spangled Banner. Aside from Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre, the Holliday was the oldest playhouse in the country.
Constructed 1794 by Thomas Wignell and Alexander Reinagle, the wood-framed building was given the nickname “Old Drury” by locals. Robert Cary Long rebuilt the theater between 1811 and 1813 after a devastating fire. Long’s building lasted until 1873 when another fire wiped out the historic structure. Rebuilt again in 1874, the Holliday Street Theatre was eventually razed in the 1920s to make way for War Memorial Plaza. This tablet, located at the base of War Memorial Plaza’s southern flagstaff, marks the original spot of the building.
Pennsylvania Avenue & Lafayette Avenue (Street View)
GPS: 39° 18′ 4.20″ N 76° 37′ 55.20″ W
Born in Philadelphia, Billie Holiday eventually spent her early childhood years in Baltimore City. At ten years old she was put in Catholic reform school, The House of the Good Shepherd, to help ease her troubled early development. After two years relatives and friends were able to remove her from the rigorous program, her mother then moving the family to New York City. By the time she was in her late teens Billie was working in Brothels and singing for tips. On the verge of eviction and penniless, Holiday was noticed serenading in one of Harlem’s legendary nightclubs and the rest is history.
When I first went to photograph and inspect the Billie Holiday statue in early June of this year the monument wasn’t there, having been removed for renovation and overhaul. When the bronze likeness was returned to it’s home in July, a more complete version of artist James Earl Reid‘s original vision was achieved. The relief sculptures Reid had attempted to put around the base of the statue were installed, censorship not standing in the way this time around. Across the street from the plaza is a monument to the Royal Theatre, a famous venue that Mrs. Holiday played during her career.
The Parkway Theatre was built in 1915 at what was then the northern edge of Baltimore City. The 1000 seat auditorium has seen various phases through the years, but has mainly been used as a cinema house. The building shut its doors in 1998, unable to deal with North Avenue’s decline. However, there is a potential plan in place (or two) to revitalize the structure along with other buildings in the North Avenue vicinity. The Center Theater, located across North Avenue, has been purchased by Jubilee Baltimore, Inc. and is being turned into a creative arts community center.
“Designed by Oliver B. Wright, The Parkway Theatre was patterned in the Louis XIV style after the West End Theatre near Leicester Square in London and envisioned as a Vaudeville performance house with about 1100 seats. It was acquired and remodeled in 1926 by the Loews organization and later, in 1952, acquired and closed by the Morris Mechanic organization. It reopened in 1956 as the Five West Art Theatre and remained under that operation until the mid-1970s, when it again closed.”