Category Archives: Amusements

Fourth of July, 1921

Springfield residents celebrated the Fourth of July 100 years ago with picnics, sports and reenactment of the World War I battle of Chateau Thierry. There was no single community fireworks show, but a showy sunset, caused by a dust and … Continue reading

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Skyrocket Inn

What to do after a long day – and night – at the Illinois State Fair? The after-fair, after-hours mecca for everyone from carnies to Hell’s Angels to local movers and shakers was the Skyrocket Inn, right across the street … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Business, Hotels & taverns, Illinois State Fair, Lithuanians, Lithuanians, Social life | 3 Comments

Mildred Park bridge collapse, 1905 (photos)

Somehow, no one was seriously injured when a crowded suspension bridge collapsed into the pond at Mildred Park (today’s Bunn Park) on Aug. 16, 1905. The lead on the Illinois State Journal story: Without the slightest warning, the suspension bridge … Continue reading

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Palace Theatre

When the Palace Theatre opened at 1836 S. 15th St. in 1915, the “very pretty little house” became a venue where downtown movies were brought to Springfield’s southeast side. Despite its grand name, the theater was very small– about the … Continue reading

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Harry Lane, ‘boss gambler’

Chester M. “Harry” Lane was Springfield’s gambling kingpin at the turn of the 20th century, apparently with the connivance of police, city officials, and the courts. He stepped down in the mid-1900s, after a fatal shooting, the election of a … Continue reading

Posted in Amusements, Buildings, Business, Crime and vice, Hotels & taverns, Journalism, Law enforcement, Media, Politics, Prominent figures | 1 Comment

Chatterton Opera House roof collapse, 1887

There was no audience inside when the roof of the Chatterton Opera House collapsed on Aug. 9, 1887. “The blue sky is now the only covering that shelters the auditorium of the once beautiful interior,” the Illinois State Journal reported. … Continue reading

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Moonlight Garden

Moonlight Garden flourished as an open-air dance pavilion and then an indoor roller rink on Wabash Avenue for more than 35 years. Entrepreneur/showman Roy Dexheimer Sr. founded Moonlight Garden as the otherwise nameless “Open Air Dance Pavilion” in June 1927. … Continue reading

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Walkathon Derby, 1934

When Springfield’s Walkathon Derby shut down on May 18, 1934, it left a mountain of unpaid bills and eight groggy couples. The competition, held in a large tent at Second and Mason streets, started May 5 with several dozen pairs … Continue reading

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The Majestic theatre, 1907-35

“Springfield society assembled en masse on the evening of May 23, 1907, when the Majestic Theatre opened its doors for the first time”, the Illinois State Register reported in 1935. By then, the Majestic, 415-21 S. Fifth St., was no … Continue reading

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W.W. Watts, theater impresario

William Walter “W.W.” Watts flopped the first time he opened a theater in Springfield. But his stepson-in-law persuaded Watts to try again, saying there was “big money in 5-cent picture shows.” The younger man was right. Watts (1868-1937), an Ohio … Continue reading

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