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Woods Opera House
Location southeast corner of Washington Ave. & Sixth Street.

1886 dication of theater.

THE TRIBUNE - September 18, 1886


Bay City's Finest New Temple of Music Thrown Open Last Evening.
Honest Emma Abbott and Her Brilliant Company in "Mignon" -- The Audience Agreeably Astonished -- A Memorable Occasion.

The citizens of Bay City have been apprehensive for several days that it would be an utter impossibility to get Wood's new opera house in readiness for the opening on September 17. Even yesterday it did not seem at all likely that so much could be done before the time would arrive when the orchestra should play its overture and the curtain be rung up on the first act. But everything was arranged, the curtain ascended and the Emma Abbott opera company in full numbers, were presented to the Bay City public as actors in the initial performance at Bay City's elegant theater.

It had been impossible to get the parquette chairs in position, but others were substituted hurriedly, and they answered the purpose satisfactorily.

Early in the evening a crowd congregated on Washington avenue and Sixth street to glance in the windows and obtain a view of the beautiful ceiling walls and proscenium, or watch the people who passed into the theater.

The entrance was brightly illuminated and a matting laid from street to foyer made it sufficiently acceptable as a walk.

In the foyer and at the head of the balcony stairways was a coterie of ushers in full dress who noiselessly and speedily escorted the guests to their respective seats as though they had filled the same appointment in Wood's play house a score of times. The chief usher was Henry A. Lewis. He was assisted by A.R. Baker, John Crawford, D. Jackson, Harry Garland, Lew Waters, Chas. Rose, Will Keith and Adolph Osier, all of whom are prominent young men of the city.

The ladies' and gentlemen's' retiring rooms were each in charge of the attendant, and everything that could be done to make it pleasant and agreeable for those present was done.

The audience was a very fashionable one, many of the gentlemen and ladies being in full dress.

Expressions of astonishment were heard on every hand at the state of completeness of the house and judging from the words of admiration and commendation heard, the audience was agreeably surprised at the general beauty, practicability and metropolitan features of the theater.

During the evening each lady was presented with a beautiful souvenir perfumed with Schlieper's opera bouquet.

The nine loges were occupied as follows:

Loge A -- Mr. and Mrs. J.F. Antisdel, Mrs. James Antisdel, Miss Antisdel, Miss Minnie Antisdel, John P. Antisdel.

Loge B -- Wm. Nelson and F.W. Bushell, of East Saginaw.

Loge C -- Mrs. S.D. Clay of East Saginaw, and Mrs. J. Buckley.

Loge D -- Thomas Cranage, jr. and wife, Miss Cranage and guest.

Loge E -- W.H. Miller, wife, daughter and guest.

Loge F -- Charles H. Bradley, Frank Young and ladies.

Loge G -- Geo. W. Mann and ladies.

Loge H -- F.W. and L.M.R. Bradley and ladies.

Loge I -- Congressman Fisher and ladies.

The officers of the house are as follows:

Managers -- Clay, Powers, and Buckley.

Treasurer -- W.D. Richardson

Assistant treasurers -- F.W. Buckley and B. Wittemore.

Chief usher -- Henry A. Lewis.

Stage carpenter -- Fred Walters.

Janitor and property man -- Will Merithew.


It was fitting that this beautiful temple of music and drama, so representative of the progressive life of the city, should be opened by the songstress whose career has been the most typical of its growth and development. Emma Abbott began her career on the basis of undeveloped possibilities; the beginning was small, but faith in herself kept her on the upward course, and she has reached the front rank of vocalists by honest endeavors intelligently exercised. Bay City's beginning was in the rough forest and with the faith and exertions of her own citizens, without patronage from any great capitalists, her opportunities have been applied and resources developed until she has reached a substantial and independent position. Very appropriate, therefore, was the choosing of Emma Abbott to open the opera house which makes another epoch in the city's progress. The choice was other wise fortunate, because it gave our citizens a delightful entertainment for the opening. The Emma Abbott opera companies, and it might properly be said the best, in America, and last night the best voices were in the cast.

Mignon is a romantic opera, with strong dramatic action. Mignon, the daughter of noble parents, has, when a child, been stolen from her home by gypsies. Her mother dies of grief, and her father, half distracted, forsakes his home and wanders about in search of his child. The gypsy chief Giarno, into whose power Mignon has fallen, compels here by cruel blows to dance and perform tricks of juggery to obtain money. Wilhelm, a young student, happens on one of these occasions to be a spectator of his cruelty and protects Mignon, and afterward buys her liberty. Her gratitude leads her into loved for the student, who is captivated and lead away by the beauty and coquettish wiles of Filina, an actress. He follows here to a fete in which she takes a part at a nobleman's castle and becomes more entangled in her meshes. Mignon is driven to despair and is about to cast herself into the lake when the aged Lotario, her former friend, appears upon the scene and interrupts her purposes. She murmurs something about burning the palace, and the distraught old man, making her cause his own, fires the palace. Mignon is within it and is rescued by Wilhelm, who is thereby restored to reason and throws off the bonds of his passion for Filina. Mignon is borne to the home of Lotario, and there restored to health. Wilhelm avows his love and Mignon's happiness is completed by the discovery that Lotario is her father. Emma Abbott sustains the character of Mignon charmingly, and last night was in excellent voice, singing as sweetly and powerfully as ever in her life and winning several encores. Her farewell to the Swallows was the gem. Alida Varena is a fine vocalist and a capable actress, and her Filina was admirably done. She was heartedly applauded, the audience appearing well pleased with her work. Lizzie Annandale, the other prima donna of the troupe, was the dashing Frederick, and sang and acted with becoming spirit. Her solo, "Here am I in beauty's bower." was enthusiastically encored. Fernandina Michalena is a finished actor as well as a capable tenor and gave Wilhelm excellent rendition. William Borderick's rendition of Lorario was all that could be desired, and his powerful baritone voice was used to good effect. Walter Allen as Saertes and Robert Beaumont as Giarno sustained their parts and music well. The opera was rendered in a style which gave the utmost satisfaction, and when the circumstances are considered it was a remarkable performance and show the capacity of this excellent company, which will appear at a matinee in Bohemian Girl and in the evening in Faust.

Bio. James M. Wood, architect. - Added Oct., 2010.

The Bay of San Francisco, Lewis Publishing Co., 1892.


J. M. Wood, although not a resident of San Francisco for many years, is one of the best known architects in this country. He is a native of , born in 1841. His father, James W. Wood, a native of Maine, came to New York and for many years was a leading coal merchant and the head of the Union Coal Company for many years. He was a prominent Whig and a leader in the councils of the party. He was president of the Board of Aldermen of United States Harbormaster. He died in 1864. His wife a most estimable lady, was Miss Jane Dunning, a native of Scoharie county, New York, and survived him one year, dying in 1865.

The subject of our sketch was reared and received his education in his native city. Soon after reaching his majority he went to Chicago and enter the office of one of the leading architects. Several years later he opened an office for himself, and for the past quarter of a century has been identified with the building interests of that city. He has given much attention to designing and erecting theaters, opera houses and concert halls throughout the United States. Among the temples of art designed and erected by him are the New California Theater; Grand Opera House, Los Angeles; the Tacoma Theater; New Broadway Theater, Denver; Hennepin Avenue Theater, Minneapolis; Blake Opera House, Racine, and Grand Opera House, Warsaw, Wisconsin; Rockford Opera House, and Grand Opera House, Danville, Illinois; Academy of Music, East Saginaw; Wood's Opera House, Bay City; Academy of Music, Kalamazoo; Redmond's Opera House, Grand Rapids; Academy of Music at Franklin, Oil City and Altoona, Pennsylvania; Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and many others, too numerous to mention. He is an enthusiast in this branch of his profession, and has devoted a great deal of time and study to the comfort, convenience, acoustic qualities and effect in the design and arrangements of opera houses, theaters, and concert halls. His design and supervision in erecting the magnificent New California Theater in this city was through the endorsement and special recommendation of the most eminent artists in the profession, -- Booth, Barrett, Modjeska and others.

Subject Notes

1890: Woods Opera House
The Woods Opera house was Bay City's first building designed specifically as a theater. It was destroyed by fire in 1902, and a new theater - the Washington theater was built on the same spot. Today, this property is used as a parking lot.
Related Pages:
Davidson, Ablert E. Mgr
Woods Opera House
Woods Opera House Fire
People Referenced
Abbott, Emma
Allen, Walter
Annandale, Lizzie
Antisdel, J.F Mr.& Mrs.
Antisdel, James Mrs.
Antisdel, John P.
Antisdel, Minnie Miss.
Antisdel, Miss.
Baker, A.R.
Beaumont, Robert
Bradley, Charles H.
Bradley, F.W.
Bradley, L.M.R.
Borderick, William
Buckley, (Mgr.)
Buckley, J. Mrs.
Bushell, F.W.
Clay, (Mgr.)
Clay, S.D. Mrs.
Cranage, Thos. Jr. Mr.& Mrs.
Cranage, (Dau.)
Crawford, John
Dunning, Jane
Fisher, (Congress)
Garland, Harry
Jackson, D.
Keith, Will
Lewis, Henry A.
Mann, Geo. W.
Merithew, Will
Michalena, Fernandina
Miller, W.H.
Nelson, Wm.
Osier, Adolph
Powers, (Mgr.)
Richardson, W.D.
Rose, Chas.
Verena, Alida
Walters, Fred
Waters, Lew
Whittemore, B.
Wood, James M.
Wood, James W.
Young, Frank
Subjects Referenced
Bay City
Cedar Rapids, IO
Chicgo, IL
Danville, IL
East Saginaw
Emma Abbott Opera Co.
Franklin, MI
Grand Rapids, MI
Mignon musical play
Minneapolis, MN
Racine, WI
Saginaw, East, MI
San Francisco, CA
Scoharie Co., NY
Union Coal Co.
Warsaw, WI
Internet Resources
  • Emma Abbott History
    AllanceLibrarySystem.com -- Features history of early Illinois women from 1818-1918, including Emma Abbott (1849-91). Emma was born in born in Chicago, IL. However, her family moved to her home town of Peoria, IL when she was child.
  • WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.