The Little Cities Archive

Shawnee, Ohio

Monahan’s Hotel and Opera House Corning 1881-1942 (Dispatch Article)

Posted by littlecitiesarchive on August 27, 2010

Corning Ohio LC-PH-457

Columbus Dispatch -May 24, 1942 -Brad Wilson -Dispatch Staff Writer

CORNING, OHIO, sighed and watched regretfully last week as a famous link to its gay, prosperous past disappeared. When a pair of carpenters with little time or patience for sentimentality dug wrecking bars into the creaking, memory-rich timbers of the Opera Hotel, Corning’s oldtimers knew Valley street would never be the same.

Built in 1881, “the Opera” was both theater and hotel for Corning in the days when the building of the railroad and Sunday Creek’s busy Mine No. 13 brought prosperity and gayety.

John Monahan, an Irishman with a shrewd sense of what the opening of the T. & O.C. (now the New York Central) could mean to Corning, built “the Opera” against advice of friends. “A mushroom town, John.  You’re crazy to build in that cornfield,” they told him.  But Monahan was never sorry he built in that “cornfield.”

The 0pera brought him friends and wealth. He was mayor of the town more years than even his daughter can recall.  He was proud of the Opera. Proud of its long, handsome bar; its neat, clean rooms; its ample stage with the backdrop showing Mine No. 13-the 13 that harassed superstitious actors.

Operated by Mr. Monahan until his death a few years ago, and since then by his daughter, Mrs. Miles Joyce, the Opera was all things to Corning.  The Al G. Fields’ and Vogel’s minstrel shows played there, as did all current vaudeville and stock company favorites.

On its second-floor stage were held Corning’s and St. Bernard’s school graduation ceremonies. Mass was said there during 1915, when St. Bernard’s church was being built. It was the scene of the famed-in-the-county $5 dances so called because that was the admission per couple.

Warren G. Harding and Carmi Thompson stayed in the hotel during the Marion publisher’s  successful campaign for the presidency.

The old hotel register tells the story–John Monahan was a good host. The same names appear again and again, many of them registered from Columbus: E. S. Drake, N. D. Monsarrat, W. R. Davis, R. E. Perrill, Frank Nusbaum, V. A. Bowman (and driver), Ross McCauley, R. J. Huddleston, S. M. Westall, E. W. Shoemaker, T. J. Bergin, John R. Orth, Fred Hamilton, Ed Dean, B. E. McManigal and scores of others.

Many of these men were salesmen. J. W. Donnelly, who ran the livery stable, would meet all trains, make his bargain with the salesmen for hire of a horse and rig, and then take them to the Opera for a rest, a chat and perhaps a drink before they started their rounds.

Except for the “13” on the backdrop, actors preferred the Opera for their engagements. They could dress in their rooms and after the show was over had no extra change from theater to street clothes to make. But the 13 did bother many of them, and Mrs. Joyce recalls how her father used to smile when a troupe, playing the Opera for the first time, would see that backdrop. “They’d throw up their hands and say ‘Monahan, we’ll never do any business with a jinx like that behind us,’ “But father would just smile and say: ‘You’ll do business all right-and they always did.

Mrs. Miles (Monahan) Joyce

Corning’s population today is about 1600, but in those days, ambitious, civic-minded Mr. Monahan boasted on his letterheads “Population 4000. ” perhaps,” smiled Mrs. Joyce, “father exaggerated a little-but I think he always felt New Lexington, New Straitsville and Shawnee were just suburbs of Corning.”  The letterheads also advised guests and prospective theater patrons as follows:  “John Monahan, proprietor and manager. Best situated theater in southern Ohio. Seating capacity 600. New and elegant scenery. This house will be conducted only as a Strictly First ·Class Theater on rental and sharing terms with FIRST CLASS Attractions only. Good stage and dressing rooms. M. E. Joyce, treasurer. Hotel in connection. Special rates to the profession.”

The hotel was the scene of the wedding reception after Margaret Monahan’s marriage to Miles Joyce, who was treasurer of the Opera House.  “Mr. Joyce was a great one for sending folks off with a big celebration when they got married. He got it back double when we were married,” Mrs. Joyce recalls.  “They paraded us all over town on one of those luggage wagons from the depot. And afterward at the hotel there was champagne and a wonderful party. It was still going on when Mr. Joyce and I started on our honeymoon trip. We took the 2:20 a. m. train to Charleston.”

Mrs. Joyce also remembers how the night, before her marriage, Corning got its first electric lights. “Father did it as a surprise. He had everything all ready and had them turned on while Mr. Joyce and I were at church for wedding rehearsal.  When we came home, there were lights on all over the hotel.  My, but father was pleased with himself that night!”

The romance of John Monahan’s daughter and Miles Joyce started at the Opera House, too.  “It began the night he took me home after “Uncle Tom’s cabin,” mused Mrs. Joyce. “It’s funny, too,” recalled Mrs. Joyce, “after we were married, Mr. Joyce and I and my father and mother lived in this house together and no people were ever happier-and yet at that time Mr. Joyce was a competitor of father’s. They both ran general stores in town.”

 

Left alone after the death of her husband and her father, Mrs. Joyce has lived in the house- next to the Opera House in recent years. When she decided to raze the old building, she admitted that: “I felt worse than anyone in Corning.” But all Corning feels like it is losing a friend, a robust, glamorous friend that lived a happy life and brought happiness to all who came in contact with it, .

2 Responses to “Monahan’s Hotel and Opera House Corning 1881-1942 (Dispatch Article)”

  1. Margaret George said

    I have a copy of a newspaper ad or a playbill from Monah’s Opera House in 1902. One of the actors, Fred D. Carstens, was a brother to my grandmother and I found this among her papers. Fred was a member of the cast for “East Lynne” performed at the Monahan’s Opera House. The newspaper ad or playbill is transcribed as follows:
    Thursday Night, January 30, 1902
    Monahan’s Opera House
    New Wonder Stock Company
    Supporting the Talented Emotional Actress
    Miss Rosabel Leslie,
    Will Render A Complete Production of
    “East Lynne,”
    A Drama in Five Acts by Mrs. Henry Wood
    Members of the cast were John Negrotto, J.H. Roseleigh, Alex Dunbar, Fred D. Carstens as Richard Hare, J. Ed. Werden, Velma Randal, Lena Bentley, Master Maburn, and Helen Bergeman. The Executive Staff were J.W. Osburn, Manager; J.B. Negrotto, Director; J. Hilton Roseleigh, Stage Manager; Fred D. Carstens, Advance; J. Ed. Werden, Adv. Agent; Prof Whitehurst, Pianist. It appears that the actors were also the executive staff.
    I don’t know for sure that this Monahan’s Opera House is the correct one. Fred Carstens’ family lived in Houston Texas but Fred was known as an actor and actually died in 1911 while performing in Bloomington Illinois.

  2. Margaret George said

    I have a copy of a newspaper ad or a playbill from Monahan’s Opera House in 1902. One of the actors, Fred D. Carstens, was a brother to my grandmother and I found this among her papers. Fred was a member of the cast for “East Lynne” performed at the Monahan’s Opera House. The newspaper ad or playbill is transcribed as follows:
    Thursday Night, January 30, 1902
    Monahan’s Opera House
    New Wonder Stock Company
    Supporting the Talented Emotional Actress
    Miss Rosabel Leslie,
    Will Render A Complete Production of
    “East Lynne,”
    A Drama in Five Acts by Mrs. Henry Wood
    Members of the cast were John Negrotto, J.H. Roseleigh, Alex Dunbar, Fred D. Carstens as Richard Hare, J. Ed. Werden, Velma Randal, Lena Bentley, Master Maburn, and Helen Bergeman. The Executive Staff were J.W. Osburn, Manager; J.B. Negrotto, Director; J. Hilton Roseleigh, Stage Manager; Fred D. Carstens, Advance; J. Ed. Werden, Adv. Agent; Prof Whitehurst, Pianist. It appears that the actors were also the executive staff.
    I don’t know for sure that this Monahan’s Opera House is the correct one. Fred Carstens’ family lived in Houston Texas but Fred was known as an actor and actually died in 1911 while performing in Bloomington Illinois.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: