Historic Timeline

HISTORICAL TIMELINE OF THE MAJESTIC THEATRE

1802   Site of first bank in Chillicothe. In 1809, a building was erected on this site for the use of the Bank of Chillicothe and the alley that borders on the east became known as “Bank Alley.” The bank remained here until they built a new building on West Second Street in 1826, now the home of the Elks Lodge.
1804 The bank’s lobby area was used for plays, setting the stage for a future theatre.
1830′s When the bank re-located, the Masonic lodge then took over the old bank building as their meeting hall. In the 1830′s the Bank Alley Thespian Society was formed and they put on plays in Masonic Hall. Sometimes their cast-included actors who came here on canal boats form Albany and New York City.
1852 April Fool’s Day a livery stable caught on fire and burned down 2 blocks of buildings. The Masons bought the property. The rebuilding of the large hall marked the beginning of better entertainment in the city and stock companies often came here of their own solution. Sometimes patrons of the art put up purses to secure outstanding attractions.
1853 On June 3rd the cornerstone was laid. The Masonic Opera House was opened on October 7th. Dramas, comedies, farces, minstrel shows, operas. Edwin Forrest, the leading tragedian of the day, came here for a guarantee of $200. Among the other great artists brought here by drama- appreciative citizens was “Ole Bull”, the renowned violinist. In addition, in 1855, a panorama, or series of paintings of the overland route to California, was exhibited at Masonic Hall.The seats, which were on platforms, could be pushed back and the floors leveled with wooden panels to allow for dancing and roller skating.
1876 The members of the Masonic Lodge contracted with Mr. John F. Cook, the local architect, to design a new opera house in their hall. A decorator from New York was hired at a fee of $1,000 to “handsomely frescoed” the ceiling in their new opera house. This expense left them strapped and having no money for new opera seats they had to use the wooden ones from the old hall.The frescos on the walls represent the four seasons. There was a higher ceiling above the one you are able to see now, it had scenes of the four seasons painted on it; however, the ceiling was lowered to add support beam for the floor of the ballroom. The white panels around the balcony ceiling contained paintings, which were considered vulgar by the women of the time and were painted over. The theatre was also enlarged: 2 more floors were added, the ballroom and the “knights” room. The floors in the theatre could be leveled with wooden panels and the seats, which were on platforms, could be pushed back for dancing and roller-skating. As for the dressing rooms. The stars on the doors were once bronze but were stolen and replaced with wooden ones.

The “M ” on the curtain represents the Masons.

1885 Minnie Maddern and Richard Mansfield appeared here in “In Spite of It All”. Admissions prices were 25, 35, and 50 cents at the matinee and 25, 35, 50 and 75 cents for the evening performance.
1895 On the 29th of July, the Masonic Opera House was lighted up for the first time with new electric light. Red, green, blue and white globes were installed to produce different effect. It was one of the first buildings in Chillicothe to have electricity – the Opera House had its own generator and even sold electricity to the city.
1896 One of the featured attractions at the Masonic was the Edison Vita scope showing life-size moving pictures. This was the first showing of motion pictures in Chillicothe.
1904 A.R. Wolf bought the theatre from the Masonic Association for $8,500.  He enlarged the stage, 535 permanent seats were built in, plus he added the stained glass windows in the front. Fire escapes were also put up. These renovations made it possible to bring the best attractions to the city. Among the many top stars brought here by Mr. Wolfe were: DeWolf Hopper, Eddie Foy, Eleanor Robson, Elsie Janis, George Arliss, Sophia Tucker and George M. Cohan. In 1907 he bought and installed the arch, which spans Second Street. (It is the last surviving arch of 22, which stood across High Street in Columbus).
1915 Three Myers brothers, Edmund, Clarence, and Robert, bought the theatre and changed the name to the Majestic Theatre. Mr. LeConey Greenbaum joined the Myers as a partner.  They had live productions but eventually went to motion pictures only.
1918 The words Vaudeville and Majestic were added to the arch in neon lights (Vaudeville was removed when the theatre began showing films). During the vaudeville era, many famous performers appeared at the Majestic, Milton Berle, Laurel & Hardy, George Arliss, Eddie Foy, Sophie Tucker, and the George M. Cohan family among them of the top 100 performers in America, the majestic had at least 88 of them here. We have also had buffalo bills wild west show minstrel shows, dramas, comedies, and every other type of entertainment, including burlesque.The Spanish influenza struck the country hard. Out at Camp Sherman (North of Chillicothe where the prisons are now) hundreds and hundreds of soldiers died due to the flu. The local mortuaries could not hold all of the bodies. Lowery mortuary across the street where the beauty shop is now used the theatre for a morgue. The bodies were stacked like cord wood I the dressing rooms until they could be taken to the stage for embalming (sometimes one of the bodies would be found to be alive and would be taken to the hospital). The blood and other body fluids were thrown out in the alley; therefore to this day the alley is called “blood alley”.
1971 The majestic acquired new owners, Harley and Evelyn Bennett. A lot of renovations were made including the original wall paintings, new seating, new front doors, restrooms and the lobby. The brick wall on the alley side was sandblasted and the plastic squares out front were removed and brick facing installed. Additionally the building received a new coat of paint, reparations made to the marquee, a new roof, and spouting.
1990 The Majestic was purchased by Robert Althoff, Robert Evans, and David Uhrig as a non-profit organization. The majestic received all new wiring, fire safety, and security systems. A heating and cooling system was installed. This system utilizes the 52-degree water from the Teay’s Aquifer, which is circulated through coils with air blown over them.
1997 The seats were removed two rows at a time and taken to the veterans hospital where they were cleaned and reupholstered including new foam pads. At the same time, all of the old balcony seats in the center were removed and the floor was completely rebuilt.  New seats, which were exact reproductions of the original seats, were purchased and installed (we lost 3 seat spaces leaving us with 532 seats). The seats on the wings of the balcony were cleaned and reupholstered. We have 11 love seats (some chaperone seats).  We may be the only theatre with such seats.
2003 The Majestic is honored with a federal grant that preserves historic sites that links a community to its past, the Saving America’s Treasures grant.