Adelphi Theater in Chicago was important in the life
of Iroquois manager
Will J. Davis. It was his first
job in the theater industry. More significantly, the
relationship he formed then with Adelphi co-owner
William W. Cole led to Davis having the financial
wherewithal to acquire his first theater, the
Frank Eugene Aiken built
Chicago’s first Adelphi theater in 1872 on the
northwest corner of Wabash and Congress streets for
The theater was not successful and closed in 1873.
Aiken went to work for Charles Frohman.
following year, a well known Washington DC theater
owner, Leonard Grover (1833-1926), leased the shell of the old
post office property at Dearborn and Monroe, named
it the Adelphi Theater, and it opened on Feb 3,
Grover’s partner in the Adelphi venture was circus
pioneer, William W. “Chilly Billy” Cole and working for
Cole at the time was William R. Hayden. One of
Hayden's jobs was contracting with railroads for
transport of Cole's circus. In that capacity, Hayden
became acquainted with a young clerk at the Lake
Shore & Michigan Southern Railway: Will J. Davis.
(Davis had secured the Lake Shore job with
help from fellow Elkhartan,
Philo Morehous, who was
a director at the LS&MS.)
Cole was suspicious of his partner Leonard Grover
and wanted someone on the ground at the Adelphi
Theater to keep an eye on his investment. William
Hayden recommended Will J. Davis to Cole.
Davis' official job was clerk
but his real job was reporting to Cole, via letters,
on Grover's activities.
William Washington "Chilly Billy" Cole (1847-1915 )
was P. T. Barnum's biggest competitor. Cole became
wealthy with his Cole's Colossal Circus and real
estate investments. In his day Cole was
recalled as the first man to make $1 million in the
circus business and at his death left behind a
fortune estimated at $5 million (inflation-adjusted
to $127 million).*
Leonard Grover, was a veteran actor, playwright and theater manager,
and associate of president Abraham Lincoln.
He was one of Lincoln's bodyguards during the
Gettysburg address and Grover's
theater in Washington, DC was a favorite
of President Lincoln and his
In fact, Tad Lincoln was at Grover's
theater when an announcement was made to the
audience that his father had been shot.
Someone more experienced in theater management might
have discouraged Davis' fault-finding
tattling about Grover's management. Cole was a circus
man, however, and Davis' reports
supported Cole's already damaged opinion of Grover, sealing a relationship between Davis and Cole
that lead to Davis' advancement to ownership status
in the theater industry.
Cole sold the Adelphi building in 1876. In 1877 it
was acquired by
Jack Haverly, reconstructed and
Theater. The First National Bank acquired the site
in 1881 and razed the old theater to make way for a
meanwhile, built a new Haverly Theater, also on
Monroe street, between Dearborn and Clark. Renamed
in 1885, it burned in 1900 - while owned by Will J.
Davis and Al Hayman.