"Theaters were his specialty..."Cobb started as a carpenter, became an architect, and traveled to Chicago after the great fire of 1871, "...drawn there by the prospect of large rebuilding operations" according to his obituary in the July, 1908, Quarterly Bulletin of the The American Institute of Architects. Theaters were his specialty, and the Myers was one of 200 he designed before his death in 1908. 31
He was also the architect of Stevens Point's Grand Opera House, completed in 1894.32 From the outside it looks quite different from the Myers Grand Opera House. First, it had a narrow canopy where the Myers had none; and second, windows and entrances at the Myers appear to be true structural arches while those at the theater in Stevens Point are rectangles. Perhaps this reflects Cobb's adoption by 1894 of I-beam construction techniques, a possibility I ran past Karl Wallick, Department of Architecture chair and associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He said he couldn't be sure.
The "gallery" mentioned in “A Dream In Old Ivory,” the Gazette story about the then-new Myers Grand Opera House, was a second balcony nearly at ceiling level I knew nothing about until I read an October 17, 1957, Gazette story that announced a temporary closing of the Myers.33
Rather shockingly, reporter Ruth Foster described it using a crude term I've decided not to republish. Her words were virtually synonymous with the better-known, class-conscious, but less-offensive “peanut gallery" that is still used to describe "the cheap seats." How her phrasing got past the editors would make a good story itself or perhaps it was added by an editor. Probably we'll never know.
"Private entrance"In an earlier, 1939 retrospective about the Myers, the Gazette included things that weren't in Foster's story:
"Among the features which made the theater most popular among leading stars of the day was its convenient connection with the Myers Hotel [located at 1 South Main Street according to Wrights Directory for 1913]. A private entrance between the two adjoining buildings [see image below which seems to show other structures were between the two Myers properties] was provided for their use, and it is said that here was the only place in the state where such a service was offered...In 1929 the Myers was completely rebuilt and equipped with the finest materials then available. More than $25,00 was spent..." 34
Foster in her 1957 article reported that during the 1929 remodeling the gallery "was torn out, high Moorish arches pilaster installed, old box seats removed and many other improvements made.” 35
A boxing match sponsored by the Elks Club (later a tenant in the Myers building) that was previewed in the April 25, 1921, Gazette, contained another revelation—to me at least—that there once was an entrance to the Myers on the street adjacent to the theater's east wall: "Gallery seats will be reached through the stairway on the South Bluff street side of the theatre." 36
The Myers was located at 118 East Milwaukee; Bluff Street, now South Parker Drive, was on its eastern edge. In later years, M.F. Tietz Jewelry was also in the Myers building on the northeast corner at 122 East Milwaukee Street. If a store was in same location earlier in the building's history, the entrance to the gallery must have been toward the rear of the block, south of where the jewelry store or earlier retail establishments ended. I'm just guessing, but it seems possible theater owners didn't want to force patrons paying for regular seats to mingle with budget-minded customers.
Seating at the MyersSeat prices in the days when the Myers was used for live performances varied according to where they were located. A Myers panel ad for the comedy Tuxedo by Hughey Dougherty’s World’s Fair Minstrels that appeared on January 11, 1894, listed the following:
"Orchestra and 4 rows orchestra circle .75;
Balance of orchestra circle .50;
First four rows balcony .75;
Balance of balcony .50;
Gallery .25; and
Box seats $1.00."37
Hotel Myers was several doors to the west of the Myers Grand Opera House whose facade and sign I believe are visible in the above about a block up
the East Milwaukee Street hill. The Gazette reported that there was
a unique "private entrance" between the buildings. This seems to
indicate performers and crew could travel from one to the other
without going outside. However, the buildings don't seem
to share a common wall so probably there was a
passageway that went from the hotel to the
treater through intervening structures.
Postcard purchased on ebay.
Click for larger images of
the above and following.
Hotel Myers is to the right of the streetcar
in this view toward the north.
Postcard purchased on ebay.
Drawing of an opera house designed
by Oscar Cobb and built in 1894.
Courtesy of the University of
Wisconsin-Stevens Point Library.
This photograph of the Myers auditorium probably was taken prior to
the major 1929 remodeling. Just visible near the back wall on
the main floor are stairs to the balcony; later, these were
located off the lobby, not inside the auditorium. Well
above the balcony, along the back of the room and
curving on both sides toward the proscenium,
is what I am guessing was gallery seating.
It's difficult to be certain.
Image: Mike Dupre, Century of Stories: A 100
Year Reflection of Janesville and
Publisher Janesville Gazette 2000, page 13.
Indexed and made available by the
Hedberg Public Library,