About - History Timeline
1897 - 30-year-old Theodore W. Barhydt comes to Terre Haute to manage the Grand Opera House. He became very successful and was the largest stockholder and president of Lyric Theatre Corporation.
1907 - Barhydt establishes the Varieties Theatre. This became the premier entertainment venue in the city.
1914 - Barhydt notices the popularity of vaudeville and makes plans to open a venue for that purpose.
1916 - The Hippodome Theatre opens at a cost of $100,000. This is one of the first theaters designed by John Eberson.
1920 - Theodore W. Barhydt sold the Hippodrome and founded the Indiana Theatre Corporation.
May 1921 - Construction begins on the Indiana Theatre. John Eberson is called on again but given a freer hand in design as the Indiana cost $1,000,000 to build. Eberson was influenced by a book that he had depicting art and architecture of the Andalusian province of southern Spain. The style on the ceilings and other parts of the building are influenced by designs found on Moorish blankets.
The auditorium was designed without a true balcony; this was to make it more reminiscent of a Roman amphitheater built on a hillside. The continuous rise in the seating also made for better viewing no matter where one sat.
The lighting system was mentioned a lot in the media hype leading to the opening. Lights were rheostatically (a continuously variable electrical resistor used to regulate current) controlled and could create any color. Lights could be controlled with a dimmer. The system involved 6,000 light bulbs. The opening night program stated “the lighting effects represent in a wonderful manner the Andalusian sunshine in the outer lobbies while one is in the midst of mystic twilight in the main auditorium.”
The original projector was in a glass booth in the center of the auditorium, 78 feet from the screen.
There was an intercom system so ushers could communicate with others in the auditorium to check on the availability of seats. Part of the system still exits by the entrance doors in the lobby.
Eberson also designed Barhydt’s home in Terre Haute which is on South 6th St. The house has the same ornate curved ceilings in many rooms that match the ones in the Indiana Theatre’s lobby. It currently houses the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity of Rose Hulman.
January 27, 1922 - Dignitaries are invited for a sneak preview of the Theatre. On this night Barhydt received telegrams from Paramount stars in Hollywood: Bebe Daniels, Gloria Swanson, Rudolph Valentino, Jack Holt, Betty Compton, Wallace Reid, and Adolph Zukor.
January 28, 1922 - Grand Opening. Organist: R. Wellington Welch. The “relief” organist was Doris Scully. Movie tickets were 25 cents before 6pm and 40 cents after. A ticket to sit in one of the boxes was 50 cents. Children under 12 were admitted for 10 cents. A 30 piece orchestra played an overture before the movie, Cappy Ricks. There are some accounts the orchestra was actually 20 pieces but the advertisements said 30. The orchestra was directed by Raymond B. Townsley. Old fashioned songs were song by Jackson Murray and Marion Mills. A fashion show with clothing from Siegel’s department store was also held that night. There were five acts of Broadway vaudeville, short subjects, and a prologue.
In addition to the lighted peacock on the exterior there was also a large, stuffed peacock that was originally a part of the auditorium decor. It sat in one of the loge boxes. It was probably removed at the same time the exterior one was.
Original organ: Wurlitzer 493, a 3/11 style 235. Cost was between $26,000 and $50,000. There was also originally a grand piano in the orchestra pit.
The schedule was usually five performances which ran from 1pm to 11pm. The picture would change every Wednesday and Saturday.
March 1922 - The theatre is already starting to struggle financially and some staff, such as orchestra members, are started to be let go.
Summer 1922 - New ownership: Wabash Theatres Corporation. Organist: W. G. O’Neil (only stayed for a week). Next organist: Emil Velasco.
Summer 1923 - New ownership: Consolidated Theatres and Realty. It was during this time that the new owners took down the large peacock on the front of the building. Reasons may have been related to peacocks being bad luck but it was also because the ties to Paramount had been broken. Organist: Dean Armstrong
1924 - Organist: Arthur All
1927 - Garfield graduation ceremony including student Dorothy Becher.
1926 - The Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra plays their first concert at the Indiana Theatre.
August 1927 - Organist: Margaret Hicks
January 28, 1928 - Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra Concert
February 1928 - New ownership: Keith-Albee Company
January 1929 - New ownership: Fourth Avenue Amusement Company of Louisville, Kentucky. This company owned a chain of vaudeville theaters in the Midwest. The theatre was still only showing silent movies at this time.
March 13, 1929 - Movies with sound come to the theatre which meant the organ was no longer used nearly as much.
John Valle was an usher from 1929-1933 while attending ISU. He remembers five acts of vaudeville in the afternoon and evening with alternating movies. Most of the time the program would also include a comedian, skits, and girls age 20-30 singing and dancing. The touring companied stayed in downtown hotels two to three days at a time. There was a partial circus with elephants, singers, dancers, and an orchestra. Popcorn and soda was actually not offered during this time period. Valle remembers students from the then Rose Polytechnic Institute and ISU coming in a counting the squares on the floor in the lobby for school projects.
1932 - Short resurgence of the organ with the “Indiana Theatre Organlogue” radio program.
1937-1942 - Eugene Muench, who worked as an usher and ticket taker, remembers Frank Sinatra performing at the Indiana.
Big bands typically played in the late ‘40s and the Indiana was the place to be on Saturday nights.
1952 - Stage fire
1955-1964 - Steve Bland was the manager. A TV broadcast of a boxing match between Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio was shown in the late ‘50s. The screen then was only 10’x10’
March 1961 - The HELP (Housewives Effort for Local Progress) organization rented the theatre for their meeting.
For six months in 1961, Sunday morning services of the First Congregational Church were held at the Indiana while the church was being renovated.
Terre Haute musician Russ McCoy works to restore the organ.
September 30, 1967 - Organ performance after restoration.
Dance contests were held on the stage and in the lobby. Dancing was not seen on TV much so teens came to the Indiana to learn how to dance.
1968 - $100,000 was spent on restoration.
1970 - New ownership: United Artists. Organ sold to Dick Ertel of Vincennes. After his death the organ was sold to broker Roy Davis and moved to McMinnville, Tennessee where it is believed to still be.
1977 - Lobby fire, supposed electrical fire in concession area. Gold leaf in the lobby was painted over.
Cooking shows, which began in the ‘20s, and held at different locations, continued at the Indiana until the early ‘70s. Sporadic cooking shows were held through the ‘90s.
Many promotions were done at the Indiana including having a fire truck in the lobby and a talking parrot.
May 1990 - United Artists put the theatre up for sale.
June 12, 1990 - New ownership: William J. Decker. Decker looked into getting the original organ back; however, when he traveled to Tennessee to asses it he found it to be in too bad of condition.
New roof membrane installed, chimneys repaired, brick veneer and terra cotta cleaned, tuck pointed and sealed.
July 11, 1992 - Officially declared “Indiana Theatre Day” by mayor Pete Chalos.
THSO concert, “Music the Movies made famous.”
1996 - New Ownership: Webtag Corporation. Earl and Tina Elliott, Debbie and Robert Gurman, and Mark and Gayla Thiemann.
November 13, 1997 - Added to the national register of historic places.
2003 - Theatre is put up for sale. New ownership: KAE Corporation, Roger and Kathy Aleshire.
2007 - Contract signed with CIC-ATOS to have a restored Wurlitzer installed. (Opus 1871)
March 23, 2013 - Indiana Theatre LLC formed.
April 26, 2013 - Indiana Theatre LLC purchases Indiana Theatre from KAE Corp.