Filed Under Entertainment

Euclid Avenue Opera House

More than a century before it hosted ten-pin bowling matches, the southeast corner of Euclid Avenue and East 4th Street (then called Sheriff Street) offered operatic entertainment. Indeed, the Euclid Avenue Opera House, which opened on September 6, 1875, stood at the heart of what was at the time Cleveland's theater district.

Stock companies were popular at the time, and John A. Ellsler's stock company and drama school was one of the most notable in Cleveland's history. This company and school took up residence in the Euclid Avenue Opera house when it opened. Like most of Cleveland's theaters, management of the Euclid Avenue Opera House changed on more than one occasion. Ellsler sank (and lost) a fortune in his Cleveland theaters. He also lost the Opera House. In 1877, Marcus A. Hanna bid $43,050 for a theater that had cost $200,000 to build. The Opera House's management continued to change hands as Hanna leased the theater to his cousin L.G. Hanna, Augustus Hartz, Abraham Lincoln Erlanger, and George Fox.

On October 29, 1892, the electrical fixtures that had contributed to the Opera House's status as "one of the Nation's best known theaters" in 1875, were blamed for starting the fire that destroyed it. In mid January 1893, the rebuilding of the Opera House started on the same location as its burnt predecessor. The new Opera House reopened less than a year after the fire.

The Euclid Avenue Opera House continued its theatrical productions for nearly thirty more years. Ironically, the fall of the Euclid Avenue Opera House coincided with the rise of Playhouse Square and had, in fact, been at the heart of an earlier, loosely arrayed theater district of sorts that predated Playhouse Square. On April 2, 1922, the last curtain was dropped after a revisited performance of Uncle Tom's Cabin. The morning after its last play, demolition on the Opera House began to make room for the one of S. S. Kresge Company's twenty-eight stores. In the wake of the decline of downtown retailing, the Kresge building found new life as the Corner Alley, a staple of the East 4th entertainment district.

Images

Opera House Under Construction, ca. 1870s Construction of the Euclid Avenue Opera House began in 1873. John Ellsler took charge of the theater and brought over his stock company. In the 1880s, Cleveland's stock companies, including the one belonging to John Ellsler, began to be replaced by the star system of combination companies. A touring actor, well-known enough to be labeled as a "star," would be contracted to play a leading role one or more times in different theaters across the country. Many of Ellsler's stock actors, however, went on to become part of the national theater scene that had replaced them to begin with. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Opera House Opening Night, 1875 On 6 September 1875, the Euclid Avenue Opera House curtains opened for the first time to the satirical play Saratoga. The performing actors were members of Ellsler's stock company, including Mr. and Mrs. Ellsler and their daughter, Effie. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Euclid Avenue Opera House, ca 1895 The Opera House was rebuilt after being gutted by an electrical fire in the fall of 1892. The theater was reopened only a year later. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Ellsler Stock Company Advertisement, 1878 John McCullough had played the role of Virginius as a member of John A. Ellsler's stock company - a small dramatic school - at the Academy of Music. He later revisited the role at the Euclid Avenue Opera House in 1878 and went on to establish himself as a well known actor. Effie Ellsler, Clara Morris, James O'Neil, James Lewis, Mrs. G. H. Gilbert, Lawrence Barrett, and Edwin Booth also began their march to stardom after appearances on the Academy of Music and Opera House stages. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Effie Ellsler, ca. 1877 Miss Ellsler's stage career continued and grew even after her father, "Uncle" John Ellsler was forced to sell the Opera House to iron and coal tycoon Marcus A. Hanna less than two years after the doors first opened. By 1880, Effie Ellsler was appearing on New York stages, performing a title role that was written for her and in her own company. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Clara Morris, 1877 Clara Morris was one of the many stars who got their start under John Ellsler's stock company, making her debut at the Academy of Music. Morris was known for her emotional acting and was typically caste in melodramas as a tearful and pathetic character. By the 1900s, she was still performing but had made her way into the popular Vaudeville scene. Source: Thorsten Becker on Flickr
Opera House Being Torn Down, 1922 The type of entertainment offered at the Euclid Avenue Opera House was considered to belong to the category of "legitimate" theater, appealing to an educated and well-off audience. By the time demolition began on 3 April 1922, Opera House managers had offered the public productions such as Gilbert & Sullivan's Pinafore in 1879, Hamlet in 1875, Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1884, Julius Caesar in 1889, and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac in the 1890s. In 1893, the Opera House lived up to its name by presenting From Moses to McKisson; an original Opera by W. R. Rose. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
The Corner Alley, 2010 After nearly thirty years of theatrical productions the last curtain was dropped on 2 April 1922. The morning after its last play, demolition on the Opera House began to make room for the a new S. S. Kresge Company store. The Corner Alley, shown here, now sits at the Opera House's former location. Source: Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Creator: sfgamchick

Location

Demolished

Metadata

Heidi Fearing, “Euclid Avenue Opera House,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 25, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/460.