Bella Union  .  Broom's Opera   . National  .  Gentry's   .   May's Bijou .

Myer's Opera  .  Olympic  .  People's    .  Varieties   .   White's Opera  .
   
 

.      35-37 Jefferson Av     .      18 Washington Av

 
 

Although a number of early Memphis theatres are listed above, they're all associated with only two addresses:  37-39 Jefferson and 18 Washington.  They're listed together on this page because there's very little information available .

The theatres associated with 35-37 Jefferson are White's Opera, Broom's Opera, Bella Union and Myer's Opera.  In several instances their dates overlap, because in one season, there might be two different managers.

The names associated with the 18 Washington Avenue address are Memphis, National, Varieties, Peoples, May's Bijou, Gentry's, New Washington, and Olympic.   

 

The first building used for Memphis theatricals was located in a block of frame buildings called "Blue Rain" at the northwest corner of Jackson and Chickasaw (now called Front Row).  This was about 1831.  The next Theatre, about 1838-40, was situated on Market Street, south side, between Front Row and Front Alley.  It was an old frame building, fitted up with a rough stage, scenery and a Drop curtain used to change scenes. 

In 1841, a large frame stable (where Webster Block now stands) was converted into a very genteel looking theatre by John S. Potter.  It was used a few seasons, before it burned.  In 1849, the Church building on the northeast corner of Washington and Center streets was made into a well-arranged Theatre by Tom Lennox.  Many of the brightest Theatrical Stars performed here.  By 1858-59, this theatre had become a Variety Theatre.

About 1855-56, the New Memphis Theatre was constructed expressly for a Theatre by James Wickersham.  Memphis' real theatrical history begins with this theatre.  It is covered on a separate page of this website. *

 

 

 

 


35-37 Jefferson Avenue . 
Between Main and 2nd Street

 

Broom's Opera . White's Opera . Myer's Opera . Bella Union Novelty


Other than the Newspaper ads and reviews (below), little information is currently available about these theatres.  It appears that each time a new manager leased the theater, the name of the theatre was changed ... averaging about every two years.

 

 

BROOM'S OPERA  ... 1869-72    .    35-39 Jefferson
 

From newspaper articles, we've learned that the Broom's Opera building burned in late December of 1870 and benefits were held for the popular manager Charles H. H. Broom  who was uninsured, to help him re-build his theatre and replace scenery, costumes,  and props.

 

1869 Ad

1869 Review

1870 Ad

1870 Fire

1870 Benefit

 

1871 Benefit-2

1871 Daily Appeal 1871 1872  Appeal

1872 Daily Appeal

 

 

WHITE'S OPERA ... 1872-74    .    35-37 Jefferson
 

1872          1873 Daily Appeal 1874 Daily Appeal 1874 Daily Appeal 1874 Daily Appeal
 

 

MYER'S OPERA ...   1875-76  .  35-37 Jefferson
 
1875 Daily Appeal 1875 Daily Appeal 1875 Daily Appeal 1876 Daily Appeal 1876 Daily Appeal
 

 

BELLA UNION NOVELTY THEATRE  ... 1877    .    35-37 Jefferson
 

1877 Daily Appeal

1877 Daily Appeal 1877 Daily Appeal 1877 Daily Appeal

 

 


 

 

 

 


18 Washington Avenue .
  NW corner of Main

 
 

Memphis (1st)   .    National   .    Varieties    .    Olympic (1)    .    People's  

May's Bijou       .     Gentry's     .     New Washington     .     Olympic (2)


In 1849, Thomas Lennox converted a church at Washington and Center Alley into a good theatre.   It lasted, in various forms, for over 40 years.  This theatre building also changed names about every two years - whenever a new manager took a lease on the building.  The earliest theatre advertising we have located is 1857.

 

 

MEMPHIS (The First One)  ... 1849-61  .    18 Washington Av
 

The earliest proof we have of this theatre's existence is the 1853 fire reported in the newspaper (below).  This was the original "Memphis" Theatre on Washington Avenue  and it continued using the name "Memphis" after the "New Memphis" (Crisp's Gaiety) opened at 82 Jefferson in 1857.  But toward the end of the year they added their manager's name, "Ash's Memphis Theatre".  In 1858 for the first time, they added street names.  And toward the end of 1959, after the Crisp's Gaiety name reverted back to the original "New Memphis", they began calling themselves the "Old Memphis Theatre" .  By 1965 new management changed the name to "National".

 

   1853 Fire

1853 Fire 1853 1856 Memphis article
 

1857

1858 1858 1859 1859 1861
 

Some of the biggest stars of the time were booked into the Memphis Theatre on Washington, including Edwin Booth and his father Junius Brutus Booth, Charlotte Cushman, Eliza Logan, Anna de LaGrange, and the Great Falstaff Hackett.  After the "New Memphis" opened at 82 Jefferson, the major talents were booked there, and this theatre went into a decline.   By 1865 it had switched entirely to "Variety" acts, and the name was changed to "National Theatre".

 

Edwin Booth

Junius B. Booth Charlotte Cushman Eliza Logan Anna de LaGrange

Falstaff Hackett

 

     

NATIONAL  ... 1865-66    .    18 Washington Av
 

The National's form of advertising was quite unique.  It took the form of one line of type, scattered throughout the newspaper.  Each line of type was different, such as "Miss Ada Montrose at the National Theatre" and might appear 15 times on one page.  We have found no other "traditional" type of ads.

 

1866  National's "Adertising"

1866 Review 1866 Review

1866 Review

 

 

VARIETIES  ... 1867-72  .    18 Washington Av

1868 Daily Appeal 1868 Daily Appeal 1869 Daily Appeal 1870 Daily Appeal 1871 Daily Appeal 1872 Daily Appeal
 

1868 Daily Appeal 1869 Daily Appeal 1869 Daily Appeal 1870 Daily Appeal 1869 Daily Appeal
 

 

OLYMPIC VARIETIES (The First One)  ... 1872-73    .    18 Washington Av
 

1872 Daily Appeal

1873 Review

1873 Daily Appeal

1873 Ad

1873 Daily Appeal

 

 

PEOPLES ... 1885-87    .    18 Washington Av
 

1885 Daily Appeal 1885 Daily Appeal 1884 Daily Appeal 1884 Daily Appeal 1885 Daily Appeal
 

 

MAY'S BIJOU  ... 1887-88    .    18 Washington Av
 
     

1887 Daily Appeal       1888 Daily Appeal
 

 

GENTRY'S  ... 1889-92    .    18 Washington Av
 
         
 

No information currently available

 
 

 

NEW WASHINGTON  ... 1893-94    .    18 Washington Av
 
         
 

No information currently available

 
 

 

OLYMPIC (The 2nd One)  ... 1894-95   .    18 Washington Av
 
         
 

No information currently available

 
 
 

* New Memphis.Memphis.Crisp's Gaiety.Leubries Theatres are on another page of this website >  Click here

 

 
 

 

Historic Memphis Website

   
 

Credits

 

The Historic-Memphis website does not intentionally post copyrighted photos and material without permission or credit.  On occasion a "non-credited" photo might possibly be posted because we were unable to find a name to give credit.  Because of the nature of our non-commercial, non-profit, educational website, we strongly believe that these photos would be considered "Fair Use.  We have certainly made no monetary gain, although those using this website for historic or Genealogy research have certainly profited.  If by chance, we have posted your copyrighted photo, please contact us, and we'll remove it immediately, or we'll add your credit if that's your choice.  In the past, we have found that many photographers volunteer to have their works included on these pages and we'll  also do that if you contact us with a photo that fits a particular page. 

 

The "Historic-Memphis" website would like to acknowledge and thank the following for their contributions which helped make this website possible:  Memphis Public Library, Memphis University Library, Memphis Law Library, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Memphis Press Scimitar, Shelby County Register of Deeds, Memphis City Schools, Memphis Business Men's Club, Memphis Chamber of Commerce, Memphis City Park Commission, Memphis Film Commission, Carnival Memphis, Memphis Historical Railroad Page, Memphis Heritage Inc, Beale Street Historic District, Cobblestone Historic District, Memphis Historic Districts, Vance Lauderdale Family Archives, Tennessee State Archives, Library of Congress, Kemmons Wilson Family, Richard S. Brashier, Lee Askew, George Whitworth, Woody Savage and many individuals whose assistance is acknowledged on the pages of their contributions.  Special thanks to Memphis Realtor, Joe Spake, for giving us carte blanche access to his outstanding collection of contemporary Memphis photos.

We do not have high definition  copies of the photos on these pages.  If anyone wishes to secure high definition photos,  you'll have to contact the photographer  or the collector.  (To avoid any possibility of contributing to SPAM, we do not maintain a file of email addresses for anyone who contacts us).