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August 31, 2018

Noblesville Music Hall

Noblesville Music Hall

By: David Heighway, Hamilton County Historian

Noblesville has seen a variety of performance venues over the years.  The first was the “City Hall” (a space above where Smith Jewelers and Noble Coffee and Tea is today) in the 1870’s.  Then Leonard Wild built his first opera house on north 9th Street (which opened in 1884 and burned in May 1891).  Before he built his second opera house on south 9th Street, another space appeared.

It was built by the Craig brothers, William H. and John C., who had side-by-side stores selling groceries and shoes.  The building today is 50 and 54 Ninth Street on the east side of Courthouse Square.  Fred Bachman built the first part in the late 1870’s.  In February 1892, the brothers talked about extending their building to the alley, which would create a 40’ by 60’ space.  They offered the upper floor as a lodge hall.  However, the Ledger newspaper said that this was the time and place for opera house.  Evidently, the Craigs decided to take the suggestion.  Will Craig was a member of the Shakespeare Club and no stranger to theater.

Construction started and in October, when the Choral Union Society contracted to use the hall, the newspaper said the space would seat 400.  If it was just the back part of the building, that seems to be a pretty unlikely number. The paper also said that the space would be known in the future as “Music Hall”.  (Not “The Music Hall”, just “Music Hall”.)

The hall opened on December 5, 1892, with a performance by the “New York Stars”, a group of six traveling musicians, singers and actors.  The show was a success and the audience called for encores.  The featured performer was S. Homer Eaton who, among other things, did female impersonation.

The hall was the home of the “Married Ladies Matinee Musicale” and the Choral Union Society. The United Baptist Church met there on Sundays.  A newspaper article emphasized the cleanliness of the new space with a pointed comment about men who might come in chewing tobacco and spitting on the floor.

The Choral Union gave a performance of the cantata “Ruth” on December 22.  It may have been the version with music by Alfred Gaul and words by Edward Oxenford.  They sang the cantata again in January of 1893, but this was private performance for the celebration of the Odd Fellows Lodge 40th anniversary.

A variety of acts was booked in 1893.  A pair of hypnotists appeared later in January.  The Ladies Aid Society held a charity event in early March.  A traveling theater troupe performed the comedy-drama “Uncle Josh Spruceby” on March 9. The show advertised its elaborate sawmill set, which apparently had problems with breaking.  Elsewhere it had mangled an actor’s hand and fractured a stagehand’s skull.  A handbell choir of English orphans performed in March 11. The Schumann Male Quartette of Chicago performed April 11.  Another traveling theater troupe performed the Irish comedy-drama “Kerry Gow” on November 1.

1894 seems to have been not so busy.  There was a hypnotist in March, the Noblesville High School Alumni meeting on May 4, a dance on May 24, the traveling performers Temple and McCloud, as well as Lulu Hurst “the Electrical Wonder” on September 21, and another dance November 23.

By 1895, the hall was apparently no longer hosting performances.  There was a dance on February 8, a Prohibition Party meeting on February 27, and the Crownland Cemetery Association met on November 8.  The probable reason for this is that Leonard Wild announced in January that he would build an opera house.  It opened in December 1895 and was the premier venue for many years.