Donna in Fort Collins, CO at the Empress Theatre – November 20, 1919

Once again, I would like to thank the wonderful folks at the History Colorado Center.  They were able to do a lookup for me that proves that the “Chin Chin” show was in Fort Collins on November 20th, 1919. So, I was able to backfill another date for Donna and the “Chin Chin” show during November 1919.

It appears that the hype for the show began on 16 November with an announcement in the Fort Collins Express, which said:

TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TEN OR MORE YEARS CHARLES DILLINGHAM OF THE NEW YORK HIPPODROME GLOBE THEATRE PRODUCER OF “JACK O’ LANTERN” WITH FRED STONE “THE CANARY”with JULIA SANDERSON and JOE CAWTHORN “HIP HIP HOORAY” “EVERYTHING” ETC., ETC., ETC. FAVORS OUR CITY AGAIN WITH ONE OF HIS RICH AND GIGANTIC PRODUCTiONS.
—–
IT IS THEREFORE WITH A GREAT DEAL OF PLEASURE AND IN FACT PRIDE THAT I ANNOUNCE THE COMING OF HIS GREATEST MUSICAL COMEDY SUCCESS “CHIN CHIN”
with WALTER WILLS and ROY BINDER IN THE LEAD A COMPANY OF 65 FORTY GIRLS 35 MEN BACK OF SCENES AND THE FAMOUS CLOWN SAXOPHONE BAND.

M.  C. GERHART

Empress Theatre
One Night Only
Thursday November …. 20TH

“Chin Chin” ad – Fort Collins Express – 20 Nov 1919
That announcement was followed with typical “Chin Chin” display ads on the 19th and the 20th. They were unable to find anything else about the show, but I did find Herbert Lloyd’s Vaudeville Guide (1919 edition), which much information regarding the venue.

The Empress Theatre

Empress Theatre – Late 1920s
Photo Courtesy: Fort Collins History Connection
The theatre was built in 1907 as the Orpheum Theater and was located at 161 North College, Fort Collins, Colorado. It changed name to the Empress Theater during an ownership change in 1914. The new owners, G. W. Thompson and H. F. Beier, intended the theater to play only the best road shows. Because women and children formed a large part of the patronage the theater provided for baby carriages and offered no offensive shows.
The theater’s seating capacity was 799; it had a small proscenium, only 27 feet wide, which framed a 28 foot deep stage.
10 years before Donna played, performers looked
out at the, then Orpheum, audience and saw this.
It is unclear when the theater began silent movies, probably before “Chin Chin” played there.  In 1920, it showed a locally filmed movie, “The Girl From Fort Collins.”  In 1929 it entered the era of talkies and ran “the Jazz Singer.”

Today

The building appears to have been completely renovated.  For many years it was a barbecue restaurant known as  Nordy’s BBQ.  Today it is Hodi’s Half Note.

Sources:

  • Fort Collins Express – November 16, 1919. Page 8, via History Colorado Center.
  • Fort Collins Express – November 18, 1919. Page 8, via History Colorado Center.
  • Fort Collins Express – November 20, 1919. Page 8, via History Colorado Center.
  • Fort Collins History Connection – Fort Collins Timeline 1919.
  • Fort Collins History Connection – Fort Collins Timeline 1920.
  • Herbert Lloyd’s Vaudeville Trails Through the West, Page 87 – Archive.Org.
    Building Colorado Story by Story: The Sanborn Fire Insurance Map Collection.
  • Sanborn Insurance Maps  Fort Collins March 1906 – No Theatre Present.
  • Sanborn Insurance Maps  Fort Collins March 1909 – Orpheum Theater.
  • Sanborn Insurance Maps  Fort Collins March 1917 – Empress Theater.

One thought on “Donna in Fort Collins, CO at the Empress Theatre – November 20, 1919”

  1. Hi Don,

    I popped onto your blog after some curiosity about a newspaper clipping I found from The Rocky Mountain Collegian, February 08, 1911, regarding a Perle Barti, and the Orpheum Theater in Fort Collins. I wanted to know if the Orpheum was still standing, and thanks to you, I know it is…! Loved the story, photos, and your research!

    My great grandmother, Perle Barti, performed at the Orpheum in a show, “A Broken Idol”, on February 14th of that year, 1911… almost a decade before your grandmother. Much of Perle’s personal life (except for records of the travels that brought her to many places), is a mystery. Her son (my grandfather) barely knew her because she was traveling his entire childhood. She eventually married and lived in NYC until her death. No mention ever of his real father. I have put together some pieces, and you helped me a bit more. Thank you.

    Take care!
    Tom Neary

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