The State Theatre’s transformation into the Shindig, a venue for stand-up comedians and live bands, and the pending completion of Mary Max Cinemas Logansport 5, a five-screen theater, got Thelma Conrad thinking of a possible focus for the Cass County Historical Society’s newest exhibit.
“We’re happy for the changes and it will now become a part of history,” Conrad said. “This exhibit falls in to our mission statement and anytime we can get the word out the historical society is active and fulfilling their mission statement, we do.”
After Conrad, Cass County Historical Society executive director, put together the exhibit over the month of August, it is now open to visitors in the basement at the Cass County Historical Society museum.
The exhibit, “From Saloons to Theaters,” gives the visitor an idea of how entertainment in Cass County and Logansport evolved from a piano in a saloon or hotel lobby to the modern theaters of the 1940s, 50s and 60s, Conrad said.
Venues ranged from the Dolan Opera House and live entertainment such as Vaudeville to radio programs, then film, she said.
Historical society president Jeanie Jones said having displays like the one running now are important.
“The number one goal is to bring back memories for some and pique interest of younger kids,” Jones said. “Seeing an exhibit in person is not the same as seeing something on a computer screen.”
As someone starts a tour in the exhibit, there is a cottage organ in that would have been played in a saloon, a type of bar in the 1800s, or hotel lobby. There are also photos of businesses that used to exist in Logansport, including the Barnett Hotel, a stage coach stop, the Royal Saloon and the Johnston Hotel.
A description in the exhibit states that in 1859 the city of Logansport index had four saloons listed; in 1869 there were 28; in 1874 there were 24 and in 1877 there were 40.
Next, a visitor will see pipe organ music, which would have been used to accompany silent movies, and a Steinway piano with sheet music by Logansport natives Frank Kienley and W.T. Giffe.
The Colonial theater and The Dowling/Dolan Opera House, which became Broadway Theater, is pictured. From 1873 to 1911, the opera house had live shows and no film until it became the Broadway Theater in 1911. The business burned down in 1926. The theater became a major stop for theater groups on the way to Chicago, Conrad said.
“Logansport was considered a test audience,” Conrad said. “If a show flopped in Logansport, groups knew not to continue with it.”
Also featured in that section of the exhibit is a pair of 1868 opera glasses. There are posters of the Roxy Theater; the Paramount theater; Logan Theater and then the State Theater, which put the Paramount Theater out of business, Conrad said.
Old movie ticket stubs displaying prices ranging from 11 cents to $1.10 are shown in a display with posters from The Song of Bernadette and Gone With the Wind.
A section of the history of the State Theater is on display. Another section will be added soon about the Skyline Drive-In, Conrad said.
“If you can’t do interactive displays, the next bet thing is visuals, not just artifacts,” Conrad said. “This (the exhibit) grabs kids’ attention and isn’t so far off they can’t relate to it.”
The history showing everything from pipe music to theaters is something all ages can enjoy, Jones said.
“This is something that gets you out of the house,” Jones said. “Come enjoy a little culture in your own town.”
Conrad and Jones said they want to invite people to come check out the exhibit and then the rest of the museum. For those who haven’t visited lately, it is constantly changing, Jones said.
Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her: @PharosAES.