Mrs. Leland and the Leland Opera House

In early May 1876, the former Albany Theatre (later St. Paul’s Church, the Academy of Music and most recently the Trimble Opera House) became the Leland Opera House, owned by Warren F. Leland (with his brother Charles E. Leland a silent partner) and Alexander Dickey.[i] On May 31, 1876, the Leland brothers and Dickey leased the building to John W. Albaugh for a period of five years at an annual rate of $10,000[ii]. Albaugh had been the theater’s manager since November 1873[iii] and before that had been stage manager at its predecessor, the Trimble Opera House.[iv]

Leland Opera House about 1890

The new Leland Opera House opened on August 28, 1876, with a performance of “Rosedale,” starring Richard Fulton Russell. The Albany Argus reported:

Leland Opera House, more attractive, handsomer and brighter than ever, was thrown open to the public last evening for the coming fall and winter season. Within was a large, brilliant, fashionable, elegant, refined and critical audience. Beauty, wit, grace and fashion came to do homage at the Thespian shrine. It was very swell from the Pompeiian lobby to the new crimson drop. There were lovely gushing women attired in the latest mode of the goddess fashion; sparkling diamonds glittered and flashed; jaunty hats and ribbons and flowers moved prettily, promiscuously and coquettishly. There were men in immaculate ties and kids, and, of course, the inevitable and ubiquitous small boy, who stamped and whistled and sweltered in the gallery. It was a brilliant, picturesque scene, perfectly fitting the beautiful and delicate colored scene surrounding it.[v]

That first season continued in September with performances of “Flying Scud” and in October with Lucia di Lammermoor featuring the Kellogg Grand English Opera.

Flyer for “Flying Scud” Sep 1876

Flyer for Lucia di Lammermoor Oct 1876

1876 also saw a major event for one of the theater’s proprietors: Charles E. Leland married actress Rosa St. Clair. Far more than Charles, it is Rosa M. Leland who made the Leland Opera House the success that it was, and who deserves to be remembered as its eponym.

Rosa M. St. Clair

Rosa M. Leland

Rosa was born in New York about 1853 as Rosa Marian Delaune (also reported as Dealaune or De Laune.) Rosa’s father died when she was an infant, and Rosa’s mother remarried. Rosa had a half brother, Garrett F. Kelly, with whom she was very close. Assuming the stage name Rosa M. St. Clair[vi], Rosa first came to Albany as part of Sallie Partington’s stock company, hired by Lucien Barnes for the Trimble Opera House’s 1871-1872 season. She made her debut as a walking lady (a non-speaking role in which appearance alone was important), but by the end of the season she had taken leading roles. It was during this season that she and Charles E. Leland fell in love, but Rosa continued her career. During the 1872-1873 season, she appeared in Daly’s Theatre, New York City; in 1874 she played at Booth’s Theatre under managers Henry C. Jarrett and Henry David Palmer; in 1875, Rosa toured the United States with Adelaide Neilson.[vii]

Rosa then left the United States, and spent two years in a Paris convent[viii]. She returned to the United States on December 6, 1875 aboard the same ship as Charles E. Leland[ix]. We assume that Charles had convinced her to return and to marry him, since they were married soon after her return, the same year, that Charles E. Leland opened the new Leland Opera House.[x] Following her marriage, Rosa gave up the stage, with the exception of one tour (described below) and appearances in Leland Opera House benefit performances.

While Rosa had given up her stage career, she must have wanted to keep her hand in the business. In 1880 Charles E. Leland bought out his partner, Alexander Dickey, and became sole owner of the theater. When John Albaugh’s lease expired in 1881, Leland leased the theater to his wife, who would be its manager for the next eight years. On September 22, 1881 the Leland Opera House opened its 1881 – 1882 season, with Mrs. Charles E. Leland it leasee and manager.[xi]

Albany NY Evening Times 1881 Dec 24

Mrs. Leland quickly showed her sure hand in managing the opera house, with appearances by major stars of the day. For example, that first season saw appearances by Joseph Wheelock, Rose Keene and Miss Mary Anderson, “America’s Tragedienne.”[xii] And the second season featured Nat Goodwin and his wife Elizabeth Weathersby in “Black Flag.”[xiii]

No wonder that Rosa was highly regarded by the city of Albany. One commentator gushed:

The present manager is Mrs. Rosa M Leland, who for the past three seasons has demonstrated perfectly that a woman can run a theatre successfully in every respect provided she has the tact, enterprise, and necessary experience. Mrs. Leland (prior to her marriage), was a successful actress, and in that capacity acquired a knowledge of what is necessary for proper stage effect, attainable in no other way. Her wide acquaintance with the profession, and that which is best in it added to natural executive ability, has had much also to do with her success. The uniform opinion of press and public has been that never has Albany had a better theatre than under her management. Plays of the best order, actors of the highest rank have been seen at the Leland in quick succession.[xiv]

Several sources report that Rosa and Charles Leland’s marriage was not a happy one. This may be inferred from Rosa’s return to the stage “after many years’ absence” in January 1883[xv], and from her  November 1883 tour with the Madison Square Company to California to play the role of Mrs. Dick Chetwyn in Bronson Howard’s “Young Mrs. Winthrop.”[xvi] That same year, she and Charles E. Leland divorced.[xvii]

Theater Pass, 1884 1885 Season (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Theater Pass, 1887-1888 Season

Rosa continued her successful management of the opera house, with the assistance of her half brother, Garrett F. Kelly. In addition to the benefit performances for the opera house[xviii], Rosa was generous in offering the stage for benefits for other organizations, including the Diocesan League, Exempt Fireman and the Actors Fund,[xix] as well as the Burgesses Corps and the Albany Musical Association.

Charles Doring Band Benefit 1883 (credit: Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library)

Albany Music Association Benefit 1888 (credit: Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library)

Over the next years, with the opera house a success, Rosa expanded her business operations. During the winter of 1886-1887, she opened a theatrical agency in New York City. In the spring of 1888, she was able to purchase the theater building, and became both its owner and manager.[xx]

Leland Opera House during the blizzard of 1888

While she was only about 35 years old, these efforts must have taken a toll on Rosa’s constitution. During the summer of 1888, she took a three-month trip to Europe to regain her health[xxi]. But hardly had she returned, when in October 1888, her brother Garrett F. Kelly died.[xxii] Ill and depressed, grieving for her brother who had been her main support, in the late autumn of 1888 Rosa gave up the business. She leased the building to Henry R. Jacobs for a period of five years.[xxiii]

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Her health, however, never recovered, and Rosa Leland died on March 10, 1889. Her funeral was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and her pallbearers included many of the city’s most prominent citizens.[xxiv] She is buried, with her brother Garrett, in St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.

Rosa Leland’s Tombstone, St. Agnes Cemetery

We will continue our story of the Albany Theatre, with the next episode covering the brief period as the H. R. Jacobs Opera House.

[i] “The Opera House Sold to Warren F. Leland,” Albany Morning Express 08 May 1876; “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History – The Curtain Rung Up on the Last Act – A Foreclosure Suit Commenced” Albany Evening Times Dec (probably 27) 1880; Daily Argus 11 May 1876.

[ii] “The Leland Opera House: Its Lease to J.W. Albaugh” Albany Evening Times 01 Jun 1876.

[iii] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House: Appearance of Albany’s Oldest Theatre Under New Management” Albany Evening Times 17 Aug 1889.

[iv] H.P. Phelps, The Players of a Century (Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880), 309.

[v] “Leland Opera House: Brilliant Opening Last Evening,” Daily Argus 29 Aug 1876.

[vi] The earliest reference to her stage name is a December 1871 article mentioning that the “charming actress” was too ill to perform and was under the care of three doctors (Daily Albany Argus 22 Dec 1871.)

[vii] “A Popular Manager: Mrs. Rosa St. Clair Leland’s Successful Theatrical Career,” Albany Evening Journal 12 Apr 1887; “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away – A Notable Woman – Obituary Notes,” Albany Evening Journal 11 Mar 1889. A notice following Rosa’s 1871-1872 debut season was less than enthusiastic about her acting skills, saying that she “manifested splendid taste in dressing, and fair talent in minor parts.” “Dramatic Personals,” Albany Evening Times 21 Aug 1872.

[viii] “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away ”.

[ix] Adriatic ship’s manifest for a journey departing from Liverpool, England and Queenstown, Ireland and arriving in New York City 06 Dec 1875; a scan of the document is available on Ancestry.com. Listed in the same ship’s manifest, immediately adjacent to  Rosa and Charles, were George Burlingham (the Delavan Hotel’s manager), and David Rose (partner in an Albany carriage-making firm). “Personal” (Daily Argus 06 Dec 1875) describes the arrival of Leland, Burlingham and Rose in New York, but does not mention Rosa. Leland, Burlingham and Rose had sailed for Europe together two months earlier (“Personal,” Daily Argus 05 Oct 1875).

[x] “A Popular Manager: Mrs. Rosa St. Clair Leland’s Successful Theatrical Career”; “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland,” Albany Times 11 Mar 1889.

[xi] “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”.

[xii] Classified advertisement, Albany Evening Journal, 24 Dec 1881.

[xiii] Classified advertisement, Albany Evening Journal, 18 Sep 1882.

[xiv] H. P. Phelps (compiler), The Albany Hand-Book (Albany: Brandow & Barton, 1884), 101.

[xv] “Theatrical Chronology,” The New York Clipper Annual for 1883, 2.

[xvi] “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”; “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away ”. The Sacramento Union carried multiple references to such a production in March 1883. Rosa appeared in the same play at a Leland Opera House benefit shortly afterward (Albany Morning Express, 27 Apr 1883).

[xvii] “Entre Nous,” The Theater, volume 5, number 10, March 11-18, 1889, page 212.

[xviii] In addition to the 1883 “Young Mrs. Winthrop” event mentioned above, Rosa Leland performed in at least four other benefits: as Mrs. Beresford with Lester Wallack in “Impulse” in 1885; as Belinda Treheone in “Engaged” in 1886; as Mrs. Vane with Miss Rose Coghland and Osmond Tearle in “Masks and Faces” in 1887; as Lady Millicent with Dion Boucicault in “The Jilt” in 1888. (“The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away ”)

[xix] “Death of Mrs. Leland,” Albany Evening Journal, 11 Mar 1889.

[xx] “The Highest Bidder: Mrs. Leland in New and Successful Role,” Albany Times 24 Apr 1888; “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”.

[xxi] “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away”.

[xxii] “Death of Mrs. Leland”.

[xxiii] “Chat By the Way,” Albany Evening Times 19 Nov 1888; “H.R. Jacobs Opera House: Appearance of Albany’s Oldest Theatre Under New Management” Albany Evening Times 17 Aug 1889; “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”; “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away”.

[xxiv] “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away”; The Theater, volume 5, number 10, March 11-18, 1889, page 212; “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”; Albany Times 13 Mar 1889.

 

St. Paul’s Tiffany Window

Even long-time members of St. Paul’s may not be aware that our building contains a Tiffany[i] window. Because “Christ the Good Shepherd” is in the vesting room, only clergy, servers and altar guild are able to see it regularly.

“Christ the Good Shepherd” window

We have mentioned before that ten of the Lancaster Street nave windows (most of them the work of J. & R. Lamb Studios) were moved to the narthex of our current building in 1966. Unfortunately, less than forty years later, the windows’ supports were found to be unstable, and they were sold, replaced by contemporary stained glass. So it is that only the Tiffany “Christ the Good Shepherd” remains of windows from the Lancaster nave. Windows from the Memorial Chapel on Lancaster Street, however, can still be found in our chapel.

J. Livingston Reese

This window is a memorial to John Livingston Reese, rector of St. Paul’s from 1864 until 1891. Those twenty-seven years make Reese St. Paul’s longest-serving rector. A history of the church where Reese served before St. Paul’s described Reese, “known years afterward as the aristocratic rector of St Paul’s Church, Albany,” as “[t]all, well-built, a veritable patrician, with a keen analytical mind, and eloquent, born to command.”[ii] He must have been an imposing figure indeed, and perhaps more respected than loved by many. Reese left a sizable endowment to St. Paul’s, which provided significant income to St. Paul’s in the early twentieth century. He is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.

J. Livingston Reese monument, Albany Rural Cemetery

Helen Louisa Hewson Wilson

Funds for the window were raised by a committee of women of the parish, chaired by Helen Louisa Hewson Wilson. It was unveiled on November 12, 1899 in a service with a special musical program, overseen by organist and choirmaster George Edgar Oliver.[iii]

George Edgar Oliver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Albany Times Union 11 Nov 1899

The original design included a panel of equal size with images of two adoring angels that stood above the image of the good shepherd.[iv] In 1964, the angel window (with all of the windows not moved to the Hackett Boulevard building) was auctioned by New York State, and sold to Chapman Stained Glass Studios in Albany.[v] The windows fate after that sale is not known.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[i] See the Tiffany Census http://www.cambridge2000.com/tiffany/html/site/3.2.8.html last accessed 02 Jun 2018.

[ii] “Fiftieth Anniversary of St. Paul’s Church, Lock Haven, Pa.” The Church Standard, 7 October 1905, 731.

[iii] “Tribute of Love: the Reese Memorial Window in St. Paul’s Church,” Albany Times Union 11 Nov 1899. See also an almost identical article “In Memory of Dr. Reese” in the Albany Evening Journal 11 Nov 1899, 10.

[iv] “Tribute of Love”. See also the Tiffany Census http://www.cambridge2000.com/tiffany/html/site/3.2.2.html last accessed 02 Jun 2018.

[v] Files of the New York State Office of General Services related to demolition for the South Mall, held by the New York State Archives, box 16209-91, folder “Demolition — St. Paul’s Church.”

Bill White, Chorister

Recollections of St. Paul’s Boy Choir, circa 1943

St. Paul’s archives recently received a donation from long-time parishioner Bill White: a portrait of Bill robed as a St. Paul’s chorister about 1943. Bill vividly remembers his service in the choir of men and boys under organist and choirmaster Raymond Sherwood Halse. The fifteen boys rehearsed three times each week: twice by themselves, and once with the men of the choir.

Bill White as a St. Paul’s chorister, about 1943

But the choir was not only work. Bill also remembers that each Sunday Mr. Halse rated each boys’ performance. An A+ rating earned the boy a trip to Rheingold’s Pharmacy at 264 Lark (the corner of Lark and Hudson streets) for an ice cream soda. In the summer, Bill remembers that the boys had a vacation, with no rehearsals required, either at the YMCA camp on Cossayuna Lake near Salem, New York, or on Burden Lake in Rensselaer County.

These rewards were not new to the choir. The tradition of summer vacations at Lake Cossayuna went back until at least 1922, and were carried forward by Bill’s choirmaster, Raymond J. Halse, who had himself sung in St. Paul’s choir as a boy.

And a bit about Bill White’s Choirmaster…

When Raymond Halse was first listed in the choir roster in 1909, the choirmaster was Robert H. Moore, who had founded the twentieth century boy’s choir at St. Paul’s in May 1906, four months after Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks became rector.[i]

Roelif Hasbrouck Brooks

Halse initially sang for Robert H. Moore as a soprano, then as an alto beginning in 1913, the year he was alto soloist.[ii] Moore resigned in March or April 1915[iii], and later that year, T.F.H. Candlyn arrived to begin his long and successful tenure at St. Paul’s.

T. Frederick H. Candlyn at St. Paul’s organ.

Ray Halse continued as an alto through Candlyn’s first year.[iv] But his connection with St. Paul’s and Candlyn did not end in 1916. Halse began to study organ with Candlyn[v], and also arranged service music performed by the choir.[vi] As a student at Albany High School, Halse also studied with George Edgar Oliver, St. Paul’s organist from 1887 until 1901.[vii] And Halse was also a student of Frank Sills Rodgers, organist at St. Peter’s Church, and served as Rodgers’s assistant, substituting for him during the summer.[viii]

George Edgar Oliver

Following his graduation from Albany High School in 1917, as a result of this excellent experience and training, Halse won jobs at Fourth Reformed Church (1918-1921) and Third Reformed Church (1921-1943).[ix]

In addition to his duties as organist and choirmaster, Halse had a day job, working as office manager at a pharmaceutical company. And he had interests in popular music as well. During the First World War, he arranged the song “We’ll Make the Germans All Sing Yankee Doodle Doo,” with lyrics by fellow Albany High graduate, David M. Kinnear. Halse was also a member of (and frequent accompanist for) the Mendelssohn Society.[x]

“We’ll Make the Germans All Sing Yankee Doodle Doo,” arranged by Raymond S. Halse

Candlyn left St. Paul’s in 1943 move to St. Thomas Church in Manhattan, and Halse was quickly hired to replace his mentor, beginning on October 1 of that year. So, Halse was quite new as organist and choirmaster when Bill White sang for him. During 1947, in addition to his other church duties, Halse directed “St. Paul’s School of Music,” offering lessons in piano, organ and voice at the parish hall address on Jay Street.[xi] Halse was to remain at St. Paul’s until his resignation in 1950, when he returned the Third Reformed Church.

[i] By autumn of the same year, the Albany Evening Journal reported:

The choir of men and boys and St. Paul’s church, under the direction of Robert H. Moore, is receiving many flattering comments upon the splendid work being done. The boys were organized in May, with the intention of displacing the ladies then connected with the choir, and since September have been singing all the services. There has been no change in the high class of music formerly used in St. Paul’s, the difficult anthems and morning and evening services being rendered with fine volume and tone. The choir meets for rehearsal four times each week, three being for boys only and one for men and boys combined. [“Music Notes,” Albany Evening Journal, no date available, but likely Nov 1906.]

[ii] St. Paul’s Year Books for 1909 – 1916.

[iii] Moore, explaining his resignation, said “that his action is entirely voluntary, and gives as his reason that the music committee wished to try a system of choir management which did not meet with his approval.” [“R.H. Moore, Organist at St. Paul’s 12 Years, Resigns,” Albany Evening Journal, no date available, but about April 1915.]

[iv] St. Paul’s Year Book for 1915; St. Paul’s Year Book for 1916.

[v] “Raymond S. Halse of Albany Named Organist and Choirmaster of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church,” Albany Times Union 26 Sep 1943.

[vi] “Raymond S. Halse, Organist, Dies,” Albany Times Union 13 Nov 1969.

[vii] “Raymond S. Halse, Organist, Dies”.

[viii] “Raymond S. Halse of Albany Named Organist and Choirmaster of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church”.

[ix] “Raymond S. Halse of Albany Named Organist and Choirmaster of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church”.

[x] “Raymond S. Halse, Organist, Dies”.

[xi] A total of seven classified advertisements in the Albany Times Union and Knickerbocker News during March and August 1947.

Easter 1968

It’s Easter Sunday, and today we share two slides taken on another Easter Sunday fifty years ago, April 14, 1968. The first slide show the rector, J. Raymond McWilliam, approaching the altar. The second slide shows him at the altar, with his back to the congregation, as was then the custom. Many thanks to Dave Van Hattum and Bob Peters, who provided the identifications.

Easter 1968

The two servers at the altar wearing red cassocks are Robert Peters and Richard Green. The one torch-bearer visible is David Van Hattum and the crucifer is John O’Meara.

 

Easter 1968

The server wearing a red cassock is Richard Green.

The Trimble Opera House

After the fire of January 1868, the blackened façade of the Academy of Music (formerly the Albany Theatre and St. Paul’s Church) stood alone and forlorn on South Pearl Street for almost two years. There was wide public interest in building a new Academy of Music, but progress came very slowly. In November 1868, Hugh J. Hastings sold the property to John M. Trimble’s widow, Mary Ann Trimble.[i] Then in March 1869, New York State chartered a corporation named “The Academy of Music in the City of Albany,” whose aim to was issue stock to fund a new theater.[ii] Later that month, three trustees were elected, one of whom was the owner of Albany’s Delavan House, Charles E. Leland, who will figure prominently in this story.[iii]

The Delavan Hotel (credit: Albany Group Archive)

But it was only in November 1869 that Mrs. Trimble took action, in conjunction with Lucien Barnes, husband of her daughter Ada G. Trimble[iv]. Barnes (the uncle of William Barnes, Jr., head of the Albany Republican organization[v]) had been chief clerk and cashier at the New York State Department of Insurance[vi], and no doubt helped his mother-in-law arrange the issuance of $40,000 in bonds, mortgaged by three trustees, among them (once again) Charles E. Leland.[vii] Mary Ann Trimble leased the theater to Barnes for a period of eleven years at a nominal rate of $1,000 annually, conditioned on his paying the principal and interest of the bonds.[viii]

Barnes hired architect Thomas R. Jackson, who had produced the designs for the Academy of Music six years earlier. The building went up very quickly, and was complete only 51 days after work began.[ix] The day before the grand opening, the theater was opened for the stockholders, with refreshments served by Charles E. Leland’s Delavan Hotel staff.

Of the Opera House itself we cannot speak in too high terms of praise. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places of amusement in the country. The decorations are superb, the fixtures unexcelled, and the entire outfit the best money can buy. No expense has been spared to make it, in all respects and every particular, equal to any of the metropolitan theatres. The private boxes are magnificently furnished – each one being a parlor of itself. In fact not anything is lacking to ensure comfort and pleasure to the patrons of the establishment.[x]

The next evening, December 31, 1869, the new theater opened with a production of Richard Sheridan’s The School for Scandal.

Playbill for Opening Night at the Trimble Opera House, 31 Dec 1869

Only four days after the theater’s reopening, a tragedy occurred, when the music director, Conrad Louis Underner, died suddenly during a performance.[xi] “Lewey” was the son of well-known local music Conrad Underner, with whom he had played in the orchestra of the old Albany Theatre.[xii] He was also a composer of several marches. Lewey’s brother, John Underner, was also a composer and organist at St. Paul’s Church in 1847, when it was in the former Albany Theatre.

Marie Bonfanti in The Black Crook (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collection)

A highlight of the first season was the production of “Black Crook,” featuring lead dancer Marie Bonfanti. This production played for a full month to standing-room crowds, and seems not to have created the furor in Albany as it had in New York City, despite the then-scandalous sight of women in tights.

Cover to the Black Crook Demon Dance

Chorus of The Black Crook (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collectdion)

The season of 1870-1871 included such stars as

  • Joseph K. Emmett (who later built the mansion that became Wolfert’s Roost), playing “Fritz, Our Cousin German”
  • Lotta (born Charlotte Mignon Crabtree)

Joseph K. Emmett as “Fritz” (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Lotta (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collection)

Franceska Janauschek (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Joseph Jefferson as Rip Van Winkle (credit: University of Illinois Theatrical Print Collection)

 

Despite this glamorous season, Barnes was having financial problems. In late 1871, Mary Ann Trimble issued two additional mortgages on the property to allow Barnes to repay Charles E. Leland and Alexander Dickey “for money loaned, and work, labor and services, and material.” Another condition of Barnes’s’ lease was that he was to pay all taxes and water bills. He had failed to do so, and the Albany County Treasurer was threatening to sell the building at public auction if payment was not made.[xiii] Barnes’s financial problems were likely compounded by marital problems: Barnes and Ada Trimble were later divorced.[xiv]

By May 1872, Barnes was insolvent, and was declared bankrupt in July of that year,[xv] his only asset the value of his lease from Mrs. Trimble.[xvi] He left as manager on July 31, 1872, having taken gross receipts of almost $215,000 in the two and a half years of his lease.[xvii] In December 1872, Mrs. Trimble sold the property to Warren F. Leland (on behalf of his brother, Charles E. Leland, and Alexander Dickey, holders of the mortgages on the property), who leased it to Aaron Richardson,[xviii] and in May 1875 (avoiding complications of Richardson’s pending divorce) conveyed the premises to Richardson’s sister, Sarah Phillips, with a mortgage. Phillips soon failed to comply with the terms of the mortgage, and the theater was again in receivership.[xix]

Warren F. Leland purchased the theater from the receiver at public auction on May 6, 1876, paying $8,000 and assuming encumbrances of an additional $60,000.[xx] “Mr. Leland, as soon as he was handed the deed by the referee, proceeded to the Opera House, and took formal possession of it. Hereafter it will be known as the Leland Opera House…” [xxi]

[i] Albany County Clerk Deed Book 219, pages 207-208, dated 28 Nov 1868. “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History – The Curtain Rung Up on the Last Act – A Foreclosure Suit Commenced” Albany Evening Times Dec (probably 27) 1880.

[ii] “The New Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express 19 Mar 1869.

[iii] “Meeting of the Corporation of the New Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express, 29 Mar 1869.

[iv] H.P. Phelps, The Players of a Century (Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880), 376.

[v] “Proctor Sells Leland,” New York Clipper, 21 Jun 1922.

[vi] Phelps, 376.

[vii] Phelps, 376.

[viii] “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History”.

[ix] Phelps, 376-377.

[x] “The Reception at the Trimble Opera House,” Albany Morning Express, 31 Dec 1869.

[xi] “Sudden Death,” Albany Morning Express 04 Jan 1870.

[xii] “’Lewey’ Underner – His Early Connection with the Orchestra of the Old Pearl Strreet Theatre.” Albany Morning Express 08 Mar 1868.

[xiii] “The Trimble Opera House,” Albany Evening Times 21 May 1872.

[xiv] Ada Trimble married twice more, both times to actors. A marriage to Harold Forsberg ended in divorce in 1884, after repeated reports of domestic abuse. [One incident is graphically described in the Daily Argus for 5 Jun 1874]. She married for the third and final time to Frederick Bryton in 1887. [“At the Theater,” Trenton Evening Times 16 Oct 1887]

[xv] “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History”.

[xvi] “Lucien Barnes’ Bankruptcy,” Daily Albany Argus, 2 Sep 1872.

[xvii] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House,” Albany Evening Times 17 Aug 1889

[xviii] “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History”

[xix] [“The Opera House: More Litigation – A Suit to Foreclose the Mortgage” Albany Evening Journal 30 Nov 1875.

[xx] “The Opera House Sold to Warren F. Leland,” Albany Morning Express 08 May 1876.

[xxi]  “The Opera House Sold to Warren F. Leland”.

The Academy of Music

After St. Paul’s sold its building on South Pearl Street to Hugh J. Hastings in October 1862, the building sat vacant for a year. In October 1863, Hastings announced that he had leased the theater to John M. Trimble for a period of ten years, with the right to purchase it after five years.[i]

It is [Trimble’s] intention to fit up the place in splendid style, regardless of expense, in order that it may be made worthy of the support and patronage of our citizens. Mr. T. proposes to introduce all the latest improvements; and in point of ornamentation and decoration to make it fully equal if not superior to any place of entertainment in New York, Boston or Philadelphia.[ii]

Old Bowery Theatre, New York City (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Trimble hoped to have the building ready by the holidays. Trimble certainly had the skills and experience for the task. He had built rebuilt the Bowery Theater in New York City in sixty days, and in his career had built, renovated or designed thirty-four theaters.[iii] Trimble had been blind for several years, so the task of drawing the plans fell to his colleague Thomas R. Jackson.[iv]

 

 

Two early accounts of the renovation of the building claim that when the church floor was removed, the pit and orchestra were found just as in the original theater, and a copy of the program from the final performance was recovered.[v] Given the scope of the 1839 renovation, it is hard to believe that that much of the original structure could have remained.

Just before the theater reopened on December 28, 1863, the Albany Morning Express gushed that Trimble,

as if possessed of the Lamp of Aladdin, … willed the transformation of old St. Paul’s Church into a fairy palace; and presto! the job is done, and done on a scale of liberality and magnificence that far more than realize the wildest expectations of the most exacting and fastidious; all that his vast and various experience, refined taste, and a lavish expenditure of money could produce are centered on this superb edifice.[vi]

The author of this article was also pleased that the new design included “no bar, saloon, or other depot of abomination.”[vii]

An early production at the new theater was a first for the city of Albany: the performance of fully-staged opera. In January 1864, the impresario Jacob Grau brought his company, Grand Italian Opera in America, to Albany, where it presented Lucrezia Borgia. “It was the first time a complete operatic performance, in costume, and with full orchestra, had ever been given in Albany.”[viii]

Mary Provost (credit: Univeristy of Washington Libraries)

Later that year, in appreciation of his renovating the theater, Albany presented Trimble with a benefit performance, subsidized by a committee of prominent local figures, including Thurlow Weed, Erastus Dow Palmer, Albert B. Street, Erastus Corning, Jr. and John Tweddle. The resident company donated its service, as did the leading lady, Mary Provost.[ix]

 

 

 

 

 

Edwin Forrest as Hamlet (credit: University of Illinois Special Collections)

Another highlight of this first season was the appearance of Edwin Forrest, who played in three Shakespeare plays, Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth, in a single week. Forrest had first appeared at the Albany Theatre in 1825 when he was barely out of his teens. By 1864, he was an established star.[x]

Academy of Music Playbill 1865

The seasons of 1863 through 1867 were financially very successful, with average annual receipts of $15,000.[xi] But John M. Trimble’s health declined in the last year, and his daughter Ada G. Trimble assisted him. When John Trimble died in June 1867, the lease was assumed by his widow, Mary Trimble. Miss Trimble, then only about 24 years old, reluctantly agreed to take on the role of manager.[xii]

Albany Morning Express 28 Jan 1868

The Academy of Music’s 1867 season began on September 2, with Ada Trimble as manager.[xiii] In December of that year, the mortgage (presumably the mortgage on the sets, costumes and props) was paid in full.[xiv] On January 27 and 28, 1868, Charles Barron starred in Hilda, and was scheduled to perform the role the next night.[xv]

 

 

 

Charles Barron (credit: Wake Forest University Special Collections)

Early in the morning of January 29, 1868, a fire was reported in John Burk’s concert saloon, next door to the theater. The fire was contained, and soon thought to be out, but as the firemen were leaving, fire was discovered in the theater. Within half an hour, the entire building was in flames.[xvi] Later that day, a local newspaper reported that “the building was burned to the ground, with the exception of the front wall, which is all that now remains of the original structure of 1825.” Hastings, the owner of the building, had the entire value of the building covered by insurance. For the Trimble family, however, the loss was total.[xvii]

Academy of Music after the January 1868 fire (Harper’s, 15 Feb 1868)

In our next segment, we will see how the theater rose from these ashes, this time known as the Trimble Opera House.

[i] “Fire This Morning,” Albany Evening Journal 29 Jan 1868.

[ii] “An Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express, 13 Oct 1863.

[iii] “John M. Trimble, Architect and Theatrical Manager,” New York Times 9 Jun 1867, quoting the obituary from the Albany Evening Journal.

[iv] “Albany Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express 22 Dec 1863.

[v] H.P. Phelps, The Players of a Century (Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880), 216 and Collections of the History of Albany, Volume 2 (Albany: J. Munsell, 1867), 37.

[vi] “Albany Academy of Music”.

[vii] “Albany Academy of Music”.

[viii] Collections of the History of Albany, Volume 2 (Albany: J. Munsell, 1867), 182. A notice about plans for the engagement appeared in Albany Morning Express 22 Dec 1863. Grau’s obituary (New York Herald 15 Dec 1877) mentions that he was the manager for Isabella Hinckley, one-time soloist in St. Paul’s choir.

[ix] “Testimonial to John M. Trimble,” Albany Morning Express 15 Jun 1864; “Benefit of John M. Trimble, Esq.,” Albany Morning Express 18 Jun 1864; “Testimonial to John M. Trimble,” Albany Morning Express 20 Jun 1864

[x] “Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express 27 Oct 1854.

[xi] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House,” Albany Evening Times 17 Aug 1889.

[xii] Jane Kathleen Curry, Nineteenth-century American Women Theatre Managers (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 122.

[xiii] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House”.

[xiv] Collections of the History of Albany, 329-330.

[xv] Classified advertisement, Albany Morning Express 28 Jan 1868.

[xvi] “Fire This Morning”.

[xvii] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House”.

Henry Yates Satterlee

St. Paul’s is proud that four of its rectors went on to be consecrated as bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States. They were:

  • William Ingraham Kip: rector 1837-1853, first missionary Bishop of California, first Bishop of California
  • Thomas Alfred Starkey: rector 1854-1858, Bishop of Northern New Jersey (now the diocese of Newark)
  • Arthur R. McKinstry: rector 1927-1931, Bishop of Delaware
  • George Taylor: rector 1932-1948, Bishop of Easton

There were several others associated with St. Paul’s who also became bishops, and we remember one of them today: Henry Yates Satterlee, the first Bishop of Washington, D.C.

Henry Yates Satterlee

Henry Y. Satterlee was born in 1843 in New York City, but both of his parents were born in the city of Albany and had long family ties in this area. The family moved to Albany in 1846 so that his mother, Jane Anna Yates Satterlee, could manage the household of her father, Henry Christopher Yates. The Yates Mansion (also known as the Yates-Kane house or Ash Grove) was located at what is now the south side of Ash Grove Place between Grand Street and Trinity Place. It was here in the Yates Mansion that Henry lived from age 3 to 13. [i]

The Yates Mansion

Henry’s father, Edward Satterlee, was only nominally a member of the Dutch Reform Church.[ii] Henry’s mother. on the other hand, regularly attended two churches: the Dutch Reformed on Sunday mornings, and the Episcopal in the afternoon. She owned a pew at St. Paul’s Church during the period when William Ingraham Kip and Thomas Alfred Starkey were rectors.[iii] St. Paul’s building on South Pearl Street would have been convenient to the mansion; it was only a ten minute through Kane’s Walk (the park that gave Ash Grove its name) and up Pearl Street.

Kane’s Walk and the Yates Mansion

We know that Henry Satterlee attended St. Paul’s Sunday School.[iv] But Mrs. Satterlee must have also brought Henry along with her to St. Paul’s services where he heard sermons. The family tells a story about his reaction to the services:

Henry, as a small boy, used to come back after service, tie an apron over his shoulders and deliver a sermon, saying the Episcopal Church was the one he proposed to enter.[v]

One wonders whether Satterlee’s attraction to the Oxford Movement started when he heard the sermons of Thomas A. Starkey. Whose “high-church notions” caused an uproar at St. Paul’s in this period.

Henry was first privately tutored by Miss Ellen P. Frisbee, an 1849 graduate of the State Normal School[vi], and then attended the Albany Academy.[vii] Satterlee also learned Dutch from his mother, who was fluent in the language.[viii] When he visited the Pruyn household in Albany as an adult, he was still able to write out a Dutch poem for the Pruyn children. Huybertie Puryn reported that “[h]e did not vouch for the accuracy of his spelling, as his so-called ‘Bible Dutch’ had become blurred in the passing years.”[ix]

Albany Map of 1857, showing Ash Grove and its neighborhood

Henry’s grandfather, Henry Christopher Yates, died in 1854. Two years later, the family returned to New York City.[x] Henry graduated from Columbia College in 1863 and then (following up on his boyish enthusiasm for preaching in the Episcopal church), attended the General Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1865.

He served at Zion Church, Wappingers Falls, New York from 1865 until 1882, initially as curate, and later as rector. He was then called as rector of the influential Calvary Church in Manhattan, where was rector until 1896.

Henry Yates Satterlee was consecrated the first Bishop of Washington, D.C. in 1896, and served in that role until his death in 1908. He is best known as the driving force behind the construction of the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, popularly known as the Washington National Cathedral. Satterlee is buried in the Bethlehem Chapel of the cathedral.[xi]

Henry Y. Satterlee’s Tomb (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

[i] Charles H. Brent, Master Builder: Being the Life and Letters of Henry Yates Satterlee First Bishop of Washington (New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1916), 6. Huybertie Pruyn Hamlin (see note ix below) also reports that Satterlee lived in the Yates-Kane house, but is mistaken when she says that it was at 102 State Street.

[ii] Brent, 2-3.

[iii] Brent, 3-4.

[iv] Label on Saterlee’s portrait in the St. Paul’s portrait gallery.

[v] Brent, 4.

[vi] An Historical Sketch of the State Normal College at Albany, N.Y and a History of Its Graduates for Fifty Years (Albany: Brandow Printing Company, 1894), 124.

[vii] Brent, 9.

[viii] Brent, 5.

[ix] Huybertie Pruyn Hamlin, An Albany Girlhood, ed. Alice P. Kenney (Albany: Washington Park Press Ltd., 1990), 137.

[x] Brent. 9.

[xi] Wikipedia “Henry Y. Satterlee,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Y._Satterlee. accessed 19 Feb 2018.