all the world's a stage...

by Kenny H September. 05, 2014 2851 views

Some fun facts about Walnut Street Theatre:

Boasting the title of “America's oldest theatre”, Walnut Street Theatre was first home to horses as a show for equestrian acts. In its debut in1809, the original name was “The Circus”. then in 1811, it was dubbed “The Olympic”, and finally in 1828, it was changed to The Walnut Street Theatre

The Walnut's first theatrical production, The Rivals, was staged here in 1812. In attendance were President Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette.

John “Pop” Reed, a stagehand who worked at the Walnut for more than 50 years in the first half of the 1800's, stipulated in his will that he wanted his skull separated from his body, duly prepared, and used to represent the skull of Yorrick in Hamlet. His wish was granted, and the skull is signed by many famous actors of the day who performed in Shakespeare's play.

Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth, purchased the Walnut in October of 1863, two years before President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

In 1923, Groucho Marx stopped his act on the Walnut stage to tell the audience that President Warren Harding had died.

The Clash, one of the leading and most controversial of Britain's new wave rock bands, played one performance at the Walnut as part of their second US tour, “The Clash Take the Fifth” tour, of September-October 1979.

On September 23, 1976, President Gerald R. Ford and his Democratic challenger, Jimmy Carter, came to the Walnut Street Theatre for the first of their three debates that fall. That encounter marked the first time in United States history that a president had agreed to debate and only the second time (after 1960) that any televised debates had been held. During the debate the sound system failed leaving Ford and Carter standing at their lecterns in uncomfortable silence for nearly half an hour.
On July 3, 1990, President Carter was awarded the Philadelphia Liberty Medal at the Walnut.

Other stars, some up and coming, to grace the stage at the Walnut were: Helen Hayes, George C. Scott, Edward G. Robinson, Claudette Colbert, Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Marcel Marceau, and hundreds of others.

Walnut Street Theatre, 9th and Chestnut Streets,
Philadelphia PA

As it looked in 1913…

And today, 2014.

While visiting the eye doctor with my mom, I saw a cool opportunity the snag a shot of the theatre from the 11th floor of the doctors office…

…little did I know, I would later look at the shots and see the window washer high above the box office (the taller building on the right) - having a little lunch on the edge of the building just above the façade.
See him?

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There are 11 comments , add yours!
Francesc 6 years ago

Great set and post

6 years ago Edited
Don Baird 6 years ago

Nice shots. Thanks for sharing the history.

6 years ago Edited
Andrea 6 years ago

Cool. love the info.

6 years ago Edited
Sara G 6 years ago

Fascinating facts! It looks a lot cleaner than in 1913, the streets:-) Amazing it started out as an equestrian act theater! I never did see the window washer :-(

6 years ago Edited
Antonio Gil 6 years ago

Lunch with a view. Thanks for sharing all that trivia with us.

6 years ago Edited
Dan Ravasio 6 years ago

Philly is where it's at and was, Ken.... lovin your history lessons....

6 years ago Edited
Marilyn Grimble 6 years ago

Thanks for such interesting images and info!

6 years ago Edited
Gillian Parsons 6 years ago

Great info what a place for lunch!!!!! Love these shots.

6 years ago Edited
Paolo Martini 6 years ago

Beautiful and so interesting Post ! ;o)

6 years ago Edited
Bee 6 years ago

So much interesting history over there! And I have to confess, I used a magnifying glass to find the window washer!

6 years ago Edited
Stefan Fletcher 6 years ago

Fascinating read, Ken. Thanks!

6 years ago Edited