I love old theatres, and in America there is none older than The Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia. It has been around for 204 years and thankfully is still in operation. The Walnut Street Theatre has some unique ties to the magic world which I thought I'd share with you, but first a little history on the theatre itself.
Built in 1809 in Philadelphia, The Walnut was the first theatre in America to have gas footlights, it was also the first theatre to have air conditioning. In 1863, the Walnut was purchased by famed actor Edwin Booth, who was also the brother of John Wilkes Booth.
A few famous names to grace the stage of the Walnut Street Theatre include: Henry Fonda, Ethel Barrymore, Jack Lemmon, Robert Redford, George M. Cohan, The Marx Brothers, Edward G. Robinson, Helen Hayes, Katherine Hepburn and many others.
I thought Harry Kellar performed there, but I can't find a record. He did perform at the Walnut Street Theatre in Cincinnati Ohio however. And he played almost every theatre in Philadelphia, so I'd be surprised if he never made it to the Walnut St. Theatre.
I don't have any proof of it, but I'm going to guess that Signor Antonio Blitz might have performed there back in the mid 1800's, as he lived in Philadelphia for a time. And I'm thinking it's very possible the Alexander Herrmann may have also performed there which could be why I didn't see Harry Kellar's name listed because the two were competitors.
According to the website for the theatre, Harry Houdini performed at the Walnut, but I don't know when. A little digging shows Houdini at the Chestnut Street Theatre and also at Keith's Theatre in Philadelphia. Houdini had a number of ties to the city. On one visit he discovered the grave of Robert Heller, which had been lost to time. Heller was originally in Macepelah Cemetery in Phili and then later moved to Mt Moriah. At another time he introduced Remigius Weiss, a spiritualist debunker whose claim to fame had been exposing the slate writing of Dr. Henry Slade.
Sure enough, she performed her first show with the Blackstone troupe that night and stayed with them for several years touring across the country in the process. One great blessing for the magic world is that Adele loves to visit with magicians and attend conventions on occasion. If you ever get a chance to meet her, please take the time to say hello and listen to some of her wonderful stories.
To me the most exciting thing is that this old beauty of a theatre is still running and has continued to do so for over 200 years! The theatre is located at 825 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
If you are aware of the number of theatres that have been razed, destroyed or closed down in the past 100 years, you'll realize just how special the Walnut Street Theatre is.