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 important, 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
Chicago’s first Adelphi theater was located on the
northwest corner of Wabash and Congress streets. It
was built by Frank Eugene Aiken at a cost of
$80,000 in 1872 and named the Aiken’s Theater.
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, leased the shell of the old
post office property at Dearborn and Monroe, named
it the Adelphi Theater, and opened on Feb 3,
Grover’s partner in the Adelphi venture was circus
man, William W. “Chilly Billy” Cole. 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. It is not
known if Grover knew of Davis' behind-scenes
relationship with Cole.
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, and was remembered in his day as
the first man to make $1 million in the circus
Leonard Grover, was a veteran theater manager. His
theater in Washington, DC had been a favorite
entertainment spot of President Lincoln and his
family. 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
not have been influenced by Davis' fault-finding
reports about Grover's management. Cole was a circus
man, however, and Davis' reports
supported Cole's already damaged opinion of Grover,
while 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 structure was razed in 1881 and a First
National Bank built on the site. Haverly,
meanwhile, built a new Haverly Theater, also on
Monroe street, between Dearborn and Clark, that in
1885 was renamed the Columbia and in 1900 burned.