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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Boonville in Cooper County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
 

Thespian Hall

 
 
Thespian Hall Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., April 11, 2011
1. Thespian Hall Marker
Inscription.
Thespian Hall, believed to be one of the oldest surviving theaters west of the Allegheny Mountains, brought culture to the frontier town of Boonville. In 1838 sixty leading citizens founded an all-male dramatic group called the Thespian Society. The Society used an old log building, a store and a courthouse for its activities.

In 1854 the Thespians purchased this lot at Main and Vine Streets for $500. In 1855, they incorporated as the Boonville Library, Reading Room, and Thespian Association. To raise the money needed to erect a building, they collaborated with the city government, the Masons, and the Odd Fellows. Together, they build [sic] this monument to the liberality and good taste of our citizens in the Greek Revival style. Thespian Hall opened to the public with a grand ball on July 3, 1857. City offices and lodges occupied the second story.

During the Civil War, both sides used the Hall as a barracks, horse stable, and hospital at various times. The Thespian Society disbanded, and the Hall passed into the hands of an original incorporator, Col. Joseph Lafayette Stephens. Among those who leased the Hall were a skating rink operator and the German Turn and Gesang Verein Society for their plays, music, and athletic events.

By April 1901, there was talk of demolishing the aging building, but the Stephens
Thespian Hall NRHP Marker image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., April 11, 2011
2. Thespian Hall NRHP Marker
family instead announced they would add a modern stage house and remodel the interior, with J. L. Howard of St. Louis as the architect. On October 5, 1901, the Hall reopened as Stephens Opera House, with a new sloping floor and horseshoe balcony. Around 1912, the owners added accommodations to permit moving pictures accompanied by live piano music, but vaudeville and plays still utilized the stage. Renamed the Lyric Theater in 1915, the building was purchased by Fox Midwest Theaters in 1929 and fitted out for "talkies."

By 1936, Fox proposed replacing the Hall with a modern movie place. Historian Charles Van Ravenswaay rallied concerned local citizens to mount a statewide preservation campaign. Bertha J. Hitch of Hannah Cole Chapter, DAR chaired the committee, which was one of the first efforts of its kind in Missouri. The Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.

In May 1975 the Friends of Historic Boonville acquired the theater as a gift from the Kemper Foundation of Kansas City.
 
Erected 2008 by Hannah Cole Chapter and Missouri State Society, D.A.R.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Daughters of the American Revolution marker series.
 
Location. 38° 58.421′ N, 92° 44.583′ W. Marker
Thespian Hall Entrance image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., April 11, 2011
3. Thespian Hall Entrance
is in Boonville, Missouri, in Cooper County. Marker is at the intersection of Main Street (U.S. 40) and Vine Street, on the right when traveling north on Main Street. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 522 Main Street, Boonville MO 65233, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Capture of Union Troops (here, next to this marker); Hannah Allison Cole (approx. 0.2 miles away); David Barton (approx. 0.2 miles away); James Milton Turner (approx. 0.2 miles away); Walter Williams (approx. 0.2 miles away); Frederick T. Kemper (approx. 0.2 miles away); George Caleb Bingham (approx. 0.2 miles away); Capture of Boonville (approx. mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Boonville.
 
Also see . . .
1. Thespian Hall. (Submitted on August 13, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
2. History of Boonville, Missouri. (Submitted on August 13, 2011, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. Arts, Letters, MusicEntertainmentMan-Made FeaturesWar, US Civil
 
Thespian Hall image. Click for full size.
By William Fischer, Jr., April 11, 2011
4. Thespian Hall
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 427 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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