Parepa Rosa Opened the House in 1872 - Reminiscences


Larry McCarty stood in the doorway of the Union Hotel looking at the ruins of the old opera house with a pensive air. Larry McCarty was the head usher in its early history. It was he who stood at the door when the house was first opened on Friday night, December 15, 1872. Parepa Rosa played the Bohemian Girl on that night. All Toledo put on its best frocks and dress suits and went to the new opera house that night. The first man to climb the stairs was Mr. Tucker, who was then running the Toledo Times. He wore an enormous palm leaf shaped soft hat and a Price Albert like that of a colored person. He went through the door on a pass, and Larry McCarty conducted him to seat 5, Section H. In those days Larry had two assistants, Frank Cunningham and Johnny Heck. Jack Stone was the stage carpenter. Jim McCarty, Sol Gorman and Johnny Owen were the scene shifters, a man named Harris raised the curtain. And he raised it on good plays. The best there were. Tony Pastor was the first name on the books of Wheeler’s, but he was negotiated with a year before he appeared. After Parepa Rosa came Windham comedy company for a week. Charles Windham was just over from England and he played to a big business in this country. But this engagement was not fruitful in door receipts, as the house was nearly filled by invited guests.


Then came J.H. Langsle (?) in the Magic Talisman, Maggie Mitchell, John Owens, Jefferson, Salvin the elder, Mrs. Lauder, E.L. Davenport, Charlotte Cushman,  John McCullough, Booth, Barrett, William Horace Lingard, and all the brilliant galaxy of those romantic theater days.


J.J. Pryor, playing first old man with Lotta in Mnsette, under Henry Abbey’s management, died in the Opera house some fifteen years ago. Pryor played at a matinee, and as it was raining, did not go to the hotel. He laid on the janitor’s bed and was too sick to go on at night. A young amateur named Langly took his place, and Pryor died about 9 o’clock. His remains were sent to New York.


R.J. Wheeler was the first manager. He it was who fought for the best and secured it, and placed Toledo theatrically on an equal footing with her sister cities. In those days, the railroads ran excursion and theater trains, and a good deal of social life centered about the Opera house. After five or six years George W. Bills took the management. He conducted the house successfully until five years ago, when it came under the control of Mr. Whitney of Detroit. Who made S.A. Brady local manager.


The old landmark is a smoldering ruin. Many a pleasant memory is outlined in the rising smoke. Little bits of Venice and familiar Spanish scenes are destroyed in its conflagration. Where is the old, dark room where Hamlet thrust the sword through the curtain, where Prefect of Police sat in Princess Andrea, where Mrs. Macbeth walked in her sleep and had a somnambulistic fit. Out of it Queen Mary passed to have her head chopped by the obliging proxy of Modjeaks. In this same room the Count of Monte Christo walked and talked. But, its ebony walls are fallen into ashes, and its rich draperies will no longer conceal the villain or protect the hunted lover.


Toledo needed a new opera house, but this is a rather too rude a reminder of it.