STORIES FROM THE PAST, by Carolyn Scroggins
Before the devastating tornado which swept through Bunker Hill in 1948, nearly all the uptown buildings were tall two story structures. Only two buildings, one on the east side and one on the west side, remain to remind us how the town once looked. The building on the southeast corner of Washington and Warren street once known as Huber Opera House and later Lincoln Hall. then for decades was a drug store and now, “The Antique Emporium,” was two stories high. On the second floor there was a very large hall, and years ago was called Huber’s Opera House.
In 1921, William Fahrenkrog bought the building and after remodeling it was named, “Lincoln Hall.” There was a theater in the downstairs east part called “ Lincoln Theater.” During the years when I went to High School (‘43-’47), Lincoln Hall was used for our P.E. classes. Before getting to our class, we got plenty of exercise hurriedly walking uptown then climbing the long, steep stairs.Miss Elizabeth Sutton, our P.E. teacher, tried to teach us girls how to play women’s basketball rules, half court, no dribbling, one bounce passes, and only the forwards were allowed to shoot, as I recall.
Our boys basketball games were played there since there was no gym at Meisener until the ‘50s. There was also independent basketball games, and other events held there.
From time to time I’ve seen announcements in old newspapers of famous singers, or a troupe of entertainers who came through Bunker Hill and gave first-class performances in Huber’s Opera House. Up until 1930, maybe even later, school functions such as, Junior-Senior banquets, and commencements were held in Huber’s Hall or Lincoln Hall.
I don’t know when the b;uilding was constructed or at least the upper story. According to newspaper items, Fred Bumann put a third story on his building in 1880 for the purpose of a hall to be used by the public. He was lauded in June of 1880 for adding space for a hall since there was no other. Then a September 20.1893 item said: “Fred Bumann’s mamouth 3-story building, one of the most substantial ever built, worth $8000. was lost in the fire”. It was the worst fire Bunker Hill businesses ever experienced. I would guess that Huber’s building wasn’t used much at that time, but soon after the fire was put to use. In April of ’93 the Luitherans used it for a dinner on the day their church was dedicated. Then, a later item said that in the fall of l893 a gigantic remodeling project was completed which made Huber Hall the best in the country. The many supporting posts were removed and the ceiling was raised five feet which gave it excellent acoustics.
I read an ad for a “Mother Goose Party” with strawberries and ice cream, which was to be held at Huber’s Hall with admission of 10 cents.
Many special events were held in the hall. A lengthly article in January 1904 told about a New Year’s Eve Party. At this time there was a Fleu-de-Lis Club in Bunker Hill whose membership consis3ed of “our best young men”. They hosted a ball for the elite of the town. The article said, “They entertained “bods” of society and the stately matrons. While sitting in the background, the chaperones sighed as the event brought forth fond recollections of times gone by when they, with blooming cheeks and radiant faces, tripped lightly over the floor with a swish-swish of their lovely frocks”. The decorations were simple, depicting the flower of the lily, and an emblem of monarchy, as the name Fluer-de-Lis implies. The center electroiler was snuggled in a bell of evergreen to the corners of the hall. The music was furnished, by “The Best Brothers Orchestra”, a popular music group. I believe they also ran a store. The dance began at 9 p.m. and lasted until 4 a.m. Taps were sounded at midnight to give a moment of reverance to the old year. Supper was served by L.J.Bartels, and guests went in relays of 25 couples. “The menu was cold turkey and ham, potato salad, pickles, ice cream, cakes, fruit and coffee. A list of the 100 who attended included many recognizable names such as; Wilbur Mercer, T.H. Hale, Bauer, Fahrenkrog, Fred Bumann, Jencks, Neil, Sessel, Hintz, Bertha Meisener, Ralph Hayes, Walter Heal, Lee, Huber, etc.
The article described in detail the way many of the ladies were dressed which may be of interest. Miss Eula Neil, wore pale blue nun’s veiling, trimmed with dutchess lace, long flowing sleeves, skirt made with graduated flonce and profusioon of tucks, Mareschal Neil Roses and pearls. Miss Clara Huber wore white Persian lawn, trimmed with lace and tucks, with open work yoke, long flowing sleeves, Mareschal Neil Roses, diamonds and opals. Miss Cordelia Stiver, white swill, trimmed with lace and feather stitching tucks cut round at the neck, short puff sleeves, carnations and diamonds. Mrs. W.B. Powell wore a combination costume, with waist of cream lace over blue silk, worked in black french knots, lacings and trimmings of black velvet, long flowing sleeves, putt and ruffles of white silk mull. Her hair was fastened in a crown of crystals and pearls. Miss Edna Bumann was attired in pink silk mull, trimmed in black beading and pink bebe ribbon, drop yoke of black lace, elbow sleeves, the skirt, waist and sleeves wee shirred. Miss Laura Baun wore wine colored silk, fetchingly trimmed.
This gives you a glimpse of society in the well-to-do circles of Bunker Hill in the early 1900s Doesn’t it remind you of a movie you have seen?