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The Opera House II

When the Town of Pulaski’s downtown ceased to be called Martin’s Station and became a real town, and moved from the south side of the railroad tracks, the citizens got so sophisticated that they had to have an opera house for entertainment. Just south of the Randolph Avenue Bridge over Peak Creek, at the corner of Randolph and First Street, Northwest, in the gay nineties, one was established and appropriately named “ The Opera House.”
The following is a quote from the late Doctor James L. Kent’s early history of Pulaski County, “The Pulaski Opera House was for a long time the only place for shows and dances and other forms of amusement in the town.
The amateurs had many good times there during their rehearsals and appearances before audiences, a large majority of whom were their everyday good friends and we had many good dances when the waltz, two step and polka were in vogue.
We never had even a suspicion that these graceful movements would be supplanted by jazz. That was probably the best floor on which to dance that has ever been in Pulaski.” I wonder what these 1900 ballroom dancers would think of “Dirty Dancing” of today.
The attraction at the opera house for the week of Aug. 21-27, l907, was Professor Lee, presenting a demonstration in practical psychology called hypnotism. This and other touring shows, along with local ones, must have provided a full menu of entertainment for Pulaskians. The building was also used for public meetings.
Conway Smith, in his book, the land that is Pulaski wrote that on the evening of December 11, 1893, some 300 citizens, including public officials and leading business men, gathered at the opera house. The courthouse in Newbern had just recently burned, and Pulaskian people were losing no time in getting the ball rolling to have the new courthouse and County seat moved to the Town of Pulaski.
This meeting was called for the purpose of ascertaining whether the citizens of the Town would favor a bond issue that would finance building of a new courthouse in Pulaski Town. One might be safe in saying that the famous “Battle for the Courthouse” began that night at the Pulaski opera house.
It is not clear why the opera house ceased operating, but one would assume that it was the same uptown syndrome that years before had moved downtown Pulaski from Martin’s Tank on the south side of the railroad tracks to the north side. In the year 1900 Main Street in Pulaski was the place to be if one was a business operator in Pulaski Construction was booming in that area.
Three local business men- Gardner, Moore, and Hunt- put up a building on North Jefferson Avenue that became known as the Gar-Mor-Hunt Building. The life of this building was short, for on Dec. 9. 1909, one of the Town’s most destructive fires completely destroyed the building. It housed the Town’s second theater. After the fire all that was left as far as theaters was the old opera house.
Around the year 1910, the Town, which had so recently been without an all-around theater, suddenly had two moving picture establishments. The first, the Elks Theater, was built on the spot that would later become the Pulaski Theater.
According to an old newspaper story, the manager was Clarence Painter, who died a few days after the opening He was replaced by Frank Wysor, Mr. Pulaski Democrat. Later John Wygal took over as owner and operator until 1921.
More about Pulaski theaters next week.

Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

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The Opera House II

When the Town of Pulaski’s downtown ceased to be called Martin’s Station and became a real town, and moved from the south side of the railroad tracks, the citizens got so sophisticated that they had to have an opera house for entertainment. Just south of the Randolph Avenue Bridge over Peak Creek, at the corner of Randolph and First Street, Northwest, in the gay nineties, one was established and appropriately named “ The Opera House.”
The following is a quote from the late Doctor James L. Kent’s early history of Pulaski County, “The Pulaski Opera House was for a long time the only place for shows and dances and other forms of amusement in the town.
The amateurs had many good times there during their rehearsals and appearances before audiences, a large majority of whom were their everyday good friends and we had many good dances when the waltz, two step and polka were in vogue.
We never had even a suspicion that these graceful movements would be supplanted by jazz. That was probably the best floor on which to dance that has ever been in Pulaski.” I wonder what these 1900 ballroom dancers would think of “Dirty Dancing” of today.
The attraction at the opera house for the week of Aug. 21-27, l907, was Professor Lee, presenting a demonstration in practical psychology called hypnotism. This and other touring shows, along with local ones, must have provided a full menu of entertainment for Pulaskians. The building was also used for public meetings.
Conway Smith, in his book, the land that is Pulaski wrote that on the evening of December 11, 1893, some 300 citizens, including public officials and leading business men, gathered at the opera house. The courthouse in Newbern had just recently burned, and Pulaskian people were losing no time in getting the ball rolling to have the new courthouse and County seat moved to the Town of Pulaski.
This meeting was called for the purpose of ascertaining whether the citizens of the Town would favor a bond issue that would finance building of a new courthouse in Pulaski Town. One might be safe in saying that the famous “Battle for the Courthouse” began that night at the Pulaski opera house.
It is not clear why the opera house ceased operating, but one would assume that it was the same uptown syndrome that years before had moved downtown Pulaski from Martin’s Tank on the south side of the railroad tracks to the north side. In the year 1900 Main Street in Pulaski was the place to be if one was a business operator in Pulaski Construction was booming in that area.
Three local business men- Gardner, Moore, and Hunt- put up a building on North Jefferson Avenue that became known as the Gar-Mor-Hunt Building. The life of this building was short, for on Dec. 9. 1909, one of the Town’s most destructive fires completely destroyed the building. It housed the Town’s second theater. After the fire all that was left as far as theaters was the old opera house.
Around the year 1910, the Town, which had so recently been without an all-around theater, suddenly had two moving picture establishments. The first, the Elks Theater, was built on the spot that would later become the Pulaski Theater.
According to an old newspaper story, the manager was Clarence Painter, who died a few days after the opening He was replaced by Frank Wysor, Mr. Pulaski Democrat. Later John Wygal took over as owner and operator until 1921.
More about Pulaski theaters next week.

Lloyd Mathews is a retired land surveyor and a historian who lives in Pulaski.

Comments

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