Apollo Opens
ŠTed Schaar 2016

"Vaudeville theater"

Janesville's second large theater, the Apollo, was located at 306 West Milwaukee on the north side of the street not far from where the Jeffris later stood at 319 West Milwaukee. 

It opened on Monday, January 27, 1913.

The Gazette called the Apollo a “vaudeville theater” and reported it had 500 seats on the main floor and 200 in the balcony.

Opening night acts included “the Cole, Russel, and Davis comedy and talking skit ‘The Bogus Nobles,’ Turner and Grace juggling pantomime comedians, and Liigald, Duffield, and Ingalls, singing and dancing….Later, in the week, the features will be Romanelli, the man who makes the violin talk, and the Maybelles singing and dancing team.”


The Apollo was fairly elaborate: “The removal this morning of the boarding that shut in the main entrance of the theater disclosed to view the beautiful foyer with its large mirrors set in a semi-octagon of white marble, floor of figured mosaic, and neat white ceiling," 57 reported the Gazette:

"Opening on this are two doors at either side and the ticket window.  The front exits are at either side of the foyer.  A marquee of steel and reinforced glass twenty feet long and eight feet in width will be hung over the sidewalk in front of the foyer and smaller ones extending over the walk for four feet will be suspended over the doors at either side.

“Modesty and good taste are displayed in the interior coloring and decorations.  There are no clashes of unharmonious and garish primary colors.  The walls are a soft, rich brown and pearl gray.  Ionic capitals of ivory white capping square columns half embedded in the wall on either side.  At the front and on either side of the stage are large panels in darker brown with Fleur-de-lis in relief and borders touched with gold.  Flanking closely the edge of the stage are ionic columns in ivory white with gold touched capitals."


The reporter's relief that the new theater did not exhibit "clashes of unharmonious and garish primary colors" is striking.  Maybe more so to me than most because I happen to be an admirer of the De Stijl look that was emerging at about that time and flaunted primary colors.59

Where did the reporter's (or editor's) aversion have it roots? What was he or she reacting to or thinking about?  Maybe it was the cubism of Picasso
or even some of modernist Frank Lloyd Wright's prairie homes and their simple lines and colors. Born in 1867, Wright was already 45 when the Apollo opened.60  Or, was the writer thinking of carnivals with their audio and visual barking?

Balcony and wicker chairs

"...seating and door frames are finished in mahogany," the article continues, "and all of the draperies are of old rose silk velour.  A heavy brass railing has been mounted at the edge of the balcony and also encloses the boxes that are placed at each end.  Rugs and neat wicker chairs will be placed in the boxes. To the left of the balcony has been placed the motion picture operator’s booth.  This is lined throughout with asbestos boards a quarter of an inch thick and hard as slate, making the place absolutely fire-proof.” 61

Several individuals who attended movies at the Apollo said patrons arriving late and sitting in the balcony had to walk in front of the projectors, which cast their shadows on the screen—a memorable irritation.

A second article
appears in the same Gazette titled, "Apollo Theater Opens Monday Evening" and subtitled: "Magnificent New Theatre Finest of Its Kind Contains All Improvements; Absolutely Safe." 

It overflows with superlatives including: "Everything that would make for the comfort, convenience, and safety of Apollo patrons has been installed in the building, nothing has been overlooked..."; "The lighting system is perfect"; and "A corps of courteous attendants...will look after the comfort of patrons in every way possible."  I was wondering why another article was needed until I reached the end and encountered a subtle but important note: "Advertisement."

Ionic capital clip art similar to columns at Apollo Theater in Janeville, Wisconsin

The "ionic capitals" inside the Apollo mentioned by the
Gazette reporter probably looked something like this
free clip art drawing found at http://www.clker.com.

Apollo theater opens Janesville, Wisconsin
Apollo Janesville postcard view
Detail from E. C. Kropp Company
postcard purchased on Ebay.

Early view of the Apollo.

Click for larger view
Apollo Theater Janesville 1943
This is the best photograph of the Apollo I have encountered.  Fugitive
 of the Plains
62.1 was released in April, 1943, Continental Express,
in 1939.  Many structural elements of the original
 1913 building remain; the vertical sign and
triangular marquee were added later.

Click for larger view


19th Century Oration



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