1902:  The Lyceum
corner of N. Mechanic & W. King Streets
Replaces the Kittredge Opera House after tragic November 1898 Fire

photo credit:  Bernard & Carol Ball Collection

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The Lyceum

Theatre/ Dance Hall/ Gymnasium for Smethport
located behind the Charles McKean Mansion (Colonial)

Built as a necessity after the Kittredge Opera House burned in November, 1898.  Following the fire the Lyceum would replace the opera house as a social center for important events, plays, dances, athletic events, etc.  Home town basketball games were played in the Lyceum.  Some report that the floor was slanted toward the stage and it was therefore difficult to dribble on the angled floor!

Deed records searched back to 1879 when a public sale of the Lyceum property was made from an insolvent Lucino Rogers.  Property then went to Eliza Burbank, then to Frank Lindholm who sold to Smethport Lyceum Company on 11/21/1902. Deed recorded on 1/9/1903.

The History of McKean, Elk  Cameron & Potter Counties (J.H. Beers 1890) mentions organization of the Smethport Lyceum in October, 1870 by L. Rogers but Lyceum Company does not show a deed until 1903.  Deeds mention a barn on the property which could have been removed.  This barn was probably the basis for an addition to make the Lyceum.

The local Legion purchased the Lyceum from James Quirk on 3/6/24 for $2500 and immediately refurbished the facility.  It was used for local entertainment including minstrel shows.  On 11/11/26 the Legion allowed use of the Lyceum for basketball games for high school students.  Cost for a practice session was $5.00 and a game was $15.00.  Legion use continued during the 30s when sale occurred.
research provided by James R. Herzog

Lyceum Deed Information

November 12, 1902

Frank Lindholm to Smethport Lyceum Company (no mention of any opera house in this deed but did mention a barn on the property as if it might be moved or used for future construction).  It is likely that the Lyceum building was built shortly after this date, perhaps using some of the barn.  Kittredge Opera House had burned November 1898 so Smethport was without any theatre building.

7/21/1904:  Smethport Lyceum company sold land not needed for Lyceum operation to Charles McKean.

2/12/1907:  Sheriff's Deed book listed mortgage satisfaction to James McKean against Smethport Lyceum.

9/30/1910:  James McKean to James Quirk, deed mentions two story opera house.

Photo dated 1920 shows a male minstrel group posed outside the Lyceum.  Another photo shows a large sign, LEGION LYCEUM, on the stage end.  (Go to RED DOT on side of Lyceum in above photo)

3/4/1924:  James Quirk to Bucktail Post #138, with Hamlin Bank as Trustee.  Article in the McKean County Miner indicated that building needed extensive interior repairs.  Fred Herriman, a local contractor, offered to refurbish at no cost.

 Legion rented to local groups for basketball at $5.00 for practice & $15.00 for games, even though players had to run up and down the sloped floor.

Heat was furnished from a coal stove that frequently filled the building with fumes and dust.

For a brief period during the 1930's, William Kerr used the Lyceum for the manufacturing of toys, probably under the name "Unicorn Toy Company".

3/14/1946:  Hamlin Bank to J. Alfred Johnson.  Deed mentions frame building known as the Legion Lyceum.  Sale authorized by Bucktail Post #138 resolution, date 1/15/1940.  Perhaps the six year delay was due to World War II.

3/14/1946:  J. Alfred Johnson to Charles Blatt.

11/21/1949:  Charles Blatt to Blatt Brothers Theatre Corporation who also owned the Star (movie) Theatre on West Main Street.  There was no mention of the Lyceum building in this deed.
research provided by James R. Herzog

Notice of Application for Charter for Lyceum

McKean County Miner, November 6, 1902

Notice is barely given that an application will be made to His Excellency, William A. Slabo(SIC), Governor of Pennsylvania, on Friday, November 14th, 1902, by John Clark, Daniel Baenu, Orlo James Hamlin, H. H. Sasse, E. T. Daly , H. C. Wells, D.M. Brasted and others, all of whom are residents of the common wealth of Pennsylvania, under the Act of Assembly untitled “An Act to provide for the incorporation and regulation of certain corporations,” approved April 20th, 1874, and the supplements thereto, for the charter of an intended corporation to be called “ Smethport Lyceum Company,” the character and object of which is to establish and maintain an Opera House to be used for operatic, theatrical and other lawful entertainments and for lawful public and private meetings and for these purposes to have, possess and enjoy all the rights, benefits and privileges of said Act., of Assembly and supplements thereto.

Gorton & Richmond Solicitors

Legion Lyceum Seems Doomed

Bucktail Post No Longer Able To Maintain Big Place

McKean County Democrat, February 23, 1939

Bucktail Post, No. 138, American Legion, met Monday with the avowed intension of disposing of the Legion Lyceum building at the corner of Mechanic and King streets.

Sentiment of the local World War veterans’ post is that the huge old building, shrouded with many a fond memory, must go, but the methods to be used have not been decided upon.

It is hoped that some plan can be worked out whereby the post will receive about $2,000 of the $12,000 in cash, in addition to the $2,500 purchase price, which has been spent on maintenance of the old Lyceum since it was acquired shortly after the World War ended. It is impossible to estimate he value of free labor devoted to the structure.

For over thirty years, until the Smethport High School gym-auditorium was constructed, the Lyceum was the only place in town large enough to accommodate High School graduation ceremonies, basketball games, boxing bouts and numerous dances. Many fine road shows were presented in the building for a number of years after it was erected and many a trembling local thespian trod the boards of the stage in home-talent productions.

Bucktail Post performed unselfish public service in maintaining the Lyceum and keeping it available for all kinds of public functions when it was vitally needed.

Unfortunately, the ex-service men can no longer carry the burden of immediate repairs needed, which are reported to include a new roof. T he Lyceum appears to be definitely destined for demolition at long last.


McKean County Democrat May 1, 1913

A great deal of preliminary interest has been aroused by the announcement that the Bon Air and Grand View Vaudeville Company will appear at the Lyceum on Saturday, May 3rd. This is the fourth season for the appearance of this splendid attraction, the proceeds of which are used by the Northwestern Anti-Tuberculosis League in its fight against the white plague. This season the management has secured the services of Charlie Case, the highest salaried blackface monologist in America. Mr. Case, as well as the other members of the company, is donating his services to the cause. Mr. Case was the headliner at Keith and Proctor’s Fifth Avenue theatre in New York last week.

With a program headed by Case, and including the other well known acts, the theatergoers of Smethport will have an opportunity of paying $1 for a $1.50 attraction, at the same time knowing that they are giving a dollar toward the maintenance of some unfortunate consumptive.

The program is as follows: Charlie Case, direct from Broadway, the greatest blackface monologist in America; Helen Shipman, of New York, the foremost juvenile impersonator in vaudeville; Watson & Austin, of New York, clever song and dance artists, who have lately been featured with several New York musical comedy successes; Billie Richardson, of New York, a favorite minstrel; Lewis Emery, of Bradford, in late song successes; Edna Luse, soprano supreme; French and Callahan, musical team, with Mr. French at the humanatone and Mr. Callahan at the piano; Bert Redfoot, in songs and sayings of Harry Lauder “In 1999,” a comedy sketch, with the Misses Anna Miller and Irma Wells and Lewis Emery.

If the above artists are willing to donate their services for a vaudeville show, do you think that the management of the Northwestern Anti-Tuberculosis League is asking too much when it urges you to attend the best show that has visited you city this season. At the Lyceum, Saturday, May 3.

photo credit:  James "RC" Freer 2001
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