Before it was the Roxy, it was the “Nelson”, and the Nelson name remained on the building, etched in stone, behind the “Roxy” signage.
Built in 1907 by Judge John C. Nelson, there were numbered dressing rooms and pianos on the 3rd floor. Behind the stage were scenery props and an intricate switchboard used for the lighting system, which required a back stage crew of ten men; usually five carpenters, two electricians and three prop men.
In the basement there were another seven dressing rooms equipped for washing and costume changes. There was also a sign explaining rules, warning actors of fines ranging up to $25 for use of bad language.
In its hey day the theater had four boxes, in the best opera style, with a background of red velvet curtains, golden (actually brass) railings, and gold decorative effects. Their setting matched the red velvet curtains on stage. Those boxes were removed sometime during the 1920s.
Handbill advertising for January and February, 1918, coming attractions, begins with the heading New At Nelson Theater, then goes on to list the schedule: the January 27th production of the play “The Copperhead” from a story written by Logansport’s Frederick Landis and starring Lionel Barrymore. This play co-starred Milt Shanks and was considered “his finest performance, as a Northerner suspected of Southern sympathies during the Civil War” quoted from wikipedia on Barrymore.
November 29, 1918, Logansport Pharos Tribune, page 6
Also listed on the handbill are coming attractions: February 1st, a matinee “Odds and Ends”, coming to us after a successful run in Chicago, February 6, “Parlor Bed Room and Bath” was to be presented, on the 12th “Pollyanna” and on February 14th “Stop, Look and Listen”, Irving Berlin’s big musical success.
Fourteen hundred persons could be accommodated with the use of the balcony and the 3rd floor gallery.
Many companies “broke a jump”, meaning they’d stop in Logansport for a one night stand before going on to Chicago, using our local audiences as a testing ground.
The actor, John Drew, famous uncle of the equally famed Barrymore’s, made several appearances in Logansport.
Shows that played here include Wizard of Qz, Babes in Toyland, The Red Mill and Shakespearean dramas.
The Nelson Theater became The Luna Theater in 1921 and did business by that name until it became the Roxy in 1934.
Logansport Pharos Tribune September 14, 1934 article tells of Roxy opening.
From Logansport Press, September 18, 1949 Page 3:
Big Names of Broadway Once Played the Nelson
Still Behind Curtains At The Present Roxy Theatre - Unused pianos, numbered dressing rooms, third floor gallery with a stained glass window in the dome, these are the mute reminders in the Roxy theater of the days of stage shows in Logansport. The Nelson building, erected in 1907 by the late Judge John C, Nelson, for years was the Nelson Theatre where lovers of the drama went. There it was they heard Harry Lauder sing, and Lionel Barrymore declaim the lines of "The Copperhead written by Logansport's late Fred Landis. On the stage where hundreds now watch Hollywood horses speeding across western plains, actual horses competed in the chariot race from "Ben Hur." The effect was achieved by putting the horses on a treadmill and shifting the scenery. Live bloodhounds ran after the escaping Eliza as "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was presented. And "Little Eva" of the same show, went sailing upwards to heaven, with, the aid of the men behind the scenes. On the back of the huge stage, many of the old scenery props still stand. There's the intricate switchboard used for the lighting system, and the "star's" No. 1 dressing room. Also back stage are two other dressing rooms. Dozens of ropes, pulleys and sandbags are in place. Missing now are the boxes. There were four of them, in the best opera style, with a background of red velvet curtains, golden (actually brass) railings, and gold decorative effects. Their setting matched the narrow catwalk where the stage hands raised and lowered red velvet curtains.....
February 26, 1955 Ad
In July of 1972 the building came down.
I don't usually include my personal thoughts and opinions on this blog, but I must say that these photos make me a little sad. I have a short stack of papers - memories shared with me about this theater and others that were in Logansport, all doing business at the same time. The memories are very interesting in that some will remember a place with fondness, while others will remember how clean or how dirty and grimy the same place was. Most can tell you the price of a ticket, the times of the shows and which movies they watched in what theater. But, while it's sad to see a building - which by the way was allowed to become very deteriorated - razed, it is those memories made within the structure that are important to keep...and my opinion more important to keep and hand down rather than the structure its self. As I say - just my opinion. You are all welcome to your own.