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Beckwith Memorial Theatre

Address: Front and Beeson Street
City: Dowagiac State: MI Zip: Phone:  
County: Cass
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Open: 1892 Closed: Capacity:    
Owner: Unknown
Web Address:
Number of visits to this page since Sept 2013: 3519

1/27/2004 - Web
During the mid 19th century, Dowagiac grew up alongside the new railroad to the West. Society here was booming and boisterous as in any frontier town. Whiskey, plentiful as milk, sold for 3 cents a dipper. At one point, Dowagiac boasted 16 taverns, many of them on South Front Street. Since Michigan law allowed only 10 taverns per village, 6 of them sadly closed their doors on a really prosperous trade.

There was more to entertainment than a full dipper, though. Men challenged each other to billiards in the taverns, while townsfolk danced in the halls above them. Bicycle riding and horse racing were popular, along with the fun of Dowagiac Union Fairs, which featured sleigh rides, fresh oysters, and a variety of carnival booths. On Courtland Street, St.

Pauls Episcopal Church hosted concerts and lectures, while the Dowagiac Mandolin Club, the Round Oak Band, and the Beckwith Memorial Theatre Orchestra provided musical fare. The Young Mens Hall alternated between political rallies and theatrical performances. But the most splendid contribution to early Dowagiac social life was the Beckwith Theatre, located across from the Old Opera House. Built with Round Oak Furnace Company funds, the theater attracted an impressive array of national talent.

Lillian Russel sang arias here, and in 1911, John Philip Sousa directed a rousing performance of The 1812 Overture and his own Stars and Stripes Forever. In January 1990, a group of Dowagiac area residents took steps to revive a part of their heritage by forming The Beckwith Theatre Company, a not-for-profit organization. Initially, over 70 individuals, ranging in age from 7 to 70, devoted their time and talents from acting and directing, to painting and hammering, to establish The Beckwith Theatre Company, for a new generation.

3/11/2003 - Web
In 1892 in memory of P. D. Beckwith, his daughter Kate and son-in-law, Free Lee built the Beckwith Memorial Theatre in Dowagiac on the southeast corner of Front and Beeson Street. The theatre regarded as one of the finest between New York and Chicago played host to well-known names as William S. Hart, Roland Reed, Robert Mantell, and Otis Skinner.

The building also contained space used for a bank, city hall, and Round Oak Company offices. The busts, which decorated the building exterior, included Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Emerson, Whitman, Shakespeare, Sarah Bernhardt, and Susan B. Anthony. When the building was razed in 1966 the busts were salvaged and eight are being used in columns standing at the entrance to the Lyons building at Southwestern Michigan College.

Beckwith Memorial Theatre - OLD POST CARD
Beckwith Memorial Theatre - PHOTO
Beckwith Memorial Theatre - OLD POST CARD

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