Lititz’s short-lived entertainment venue

By on September 28, 2016

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March of 1911 proved to be an important month for live entertainment in Lititz, for that was when The Springs Theatre prepared for its grand opening on North Broad Street.

The venue occupied the former building of the Home Theatre (right next to the Parkview Hotel), and promised to provide the best in moving pictures and live vaudeville entertainment in the area.

Although history tells us that performances in Lititz date back to at least 1903 when the New York vaudeville stars performed at Rudy Hall, it was the Springs Theatre that would house the most permanent space of its kind (albeit short) in Lititz history.

Inside, the managers had a small stage erected where up to four people could perform. Additionally, a contract was made with the Independent Film Company which would supply the very best moving pictures of that era. A brand new 12’ x 12’ curtain was placed at the rear of the stage; and a modest Painter & Ewing piano was purchased, which provided a live soundtrack.

For the mere price of a nickel, visitors from both near and far could attend a show. On Saturday evenings, a fee of 10 cents was charged.

Everything was in place, the stage was (literally) set, and live acts were anxious and ready.

The grand opening weekend of April 6, 1911, featured Andy Johns, “America’s Clever Ventriloquist,” who brought along his “wooden headed family” to entertain the masses.

The next weekend, the one-man band “Musical Trewitz,” captivated audiences. His ability to play the harmonica, guitar, banjo, chimes, Japanese fiddle, electric drums, and musical bottles was certainly a sight to see. Trewitz was known for playing leading vaudeville theatres around the country, and his act was met with great applause (and astonishment) in Lititz as he strummed the banjo while juggling!

A short time later saw “Pony Sampson” on the playbill, who thrilled audiences with his lassoing and other cowboy feats. In true vaudeville style, he gave free short exhibitions at the front door of the theatre before each show. Shortly after his performances came to a close, Sampson joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in Lancaster, where they played to capacity crowds at the Fulton Opera House.

During the week of April 20, Frailey the ventriloquist took the stage, and was a hit with all who attended. Known as Ned Frailey in real life and hailing from Lancaster, he also enjoyed a very successful career in magic, being known as the Dean of Pennsylvania magicians during his lifetime.

That same week, a brand new moving picture machine was put into use. It proved to be a tremendous success, projecting three Western “reels” as well as a championship baseball game played between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Athletics.

Miss Elizabeth Hovell provided the entertainment for the week of April 27, with her singing and dancing. Musical Trewitz also made his triumphant return to Lititz that week. Additionally, several high class movies were also shown.

Sadly, the Springs Theatre only lasted a very short time, and only a handful of performances were known to take place.

The building was sold, coming into the hands of Thaddeus Stevens Grosh of Lititz who ran a pool hall in that location up until about 1940. The former theatre was also used for several other businesses after that, but was eventually demolished, ending what was once the location of one of Lititz’s earliest entertainment venues.

Cory Van Brookhoven is president of the Lititz Historical Foundation and has authored several books on topics involving Lancaster County history, including Lititz. He welcomes your comments at coryvb@hotmail.com.

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