December, 1893, ten years before the Iroquois fire,
on a similarly bitter cold day,
Will J. Davis' first
theater burned. The Haymarket caught fire at 10:00
am December 1, 1893 when a blaze started in the 5th
floor space occupied by the Monarch Textile company.
Though it was a week day and there were stores and
offices in operation, everyone escaped and there
were no injuries. Thousands turned out to
watch the Chicago fire department fight the blaze
and when it was over Davis sent $150 to
Swenie for the firemen's pension fund (around
$4,000 in today's money) as appreciation
for the department's success in saving the
the first of three fires to theaters managed by
Davis. Another would come in 1900 with the
Columbia Theater. Davis no longer owned
the Haymarket at the time of the fire, having sold
his interests to Kohl & Castle in 1889, but served
as the manager.
five-story Haymarket structure remained standing but
the interior was destroyed by fire and water,
representing a $100,000 loss. Contents of stores and
offices at the front of the building were damaged,
as well as the theater foyer. Other
tenants included the Giller Drug Company, Besinger
Cafeteria and Asa Bertrand Segar's industrial
The Haymarket Theater was
located on the north side of Madison street near
Halstead, on Chicago's west side. It was built
new in 1887 with Davis' direction, financed by
William Cole. Davis took the lease in May,
The 120' x 187'
structure was designed by Flanders and Zimmerman.
Built of St. Louis pressed brick, it was trimmed in
carved Portage brown stone with polished granite
columns and marble floors.
A forty-foot square grand
salon, open to the floors above, featured a water
The 70' x 90'
auditorium included eight private boxes and seating
for 1,746 but a capacity of up to 3,000 people was
asserted, so a full house would have included 400
people standing on each floor of the auditorium. The
third floor gallery offered bench seating. The
Haymarket had electric lighting but also a gas
lighting system in case of electric failure. Davis
boasted there were over 1,200 lamps – provided by
the same company that supplied the Iroquois.
As he did in the
Iroquois Theater program, Davis maintained that
extra precautions were taken against fire at the
Haymarket. There were thirty-eight fire escape exits
that Davis claimed resulted in nearly twice the
lineal feet of exit space as any other theater in
The stage was 90' x
49' with a curtain opening of 38' x 36', seven miles
of rigging and a Georgia pine floor.
The headliner dressing
room was located at stage level and included a
private bath and sitting area. A dozen other
dressing rooms were in the basement, and four above
the stage. All dressing rooms included sinks.
George A. Fair was
treasurer and assistant manager at the Haymarket.
(He also served as pall bearer when Will Davis'
mother died in 1896.) Other officers in the
Haymarket Theater Company: Walter T. Dwight,
president, George W. Stanford, vice president, James
F. Griffin, secretary and Herbert A. Beidler,
Content of the
produced for the premier of the Iroquois in
1903 was almost identical to that of the Haymarket
in 1887. Line art illustrations with detailed
credits for suppliers, all of whom Davis probably
arm wrestled to grant him a discount on their goods
and services in exchange for being mentioned in the
program. Among those cited: Dainty and Ward of the
Marshall Field carpet and drapery department, a
Steinway piano from Lyon & Healy in the grand salon,
wood carvings by Steinmetz & Elenberger, a mantel by
Healy & Millet, masonry work by Victor Falkenau,
plumbing by William McGraw, gas and electric
T. W. Wilmarth, ventilation by Ruttan
Manufacturing, steam boilers from F. W. Lamb & Co,
ornamental bronze and fountain from Winslow Bros.,
marble from K. M. Keating, plastering by Aug. Zander,
painting by Perkins Bros., fire escape stairs by
Globe Iron Works, copper cornices by Frank Kampe,
light plant by United States Electric Lighting,
cement paving beneath the theater by Portland Cement
Company, stained glass used in private boxes by
McCully & Miles, beveled glass in vestibule by J. D.
Roberts, perforated rubber matting from Salisbury &
The grand opening was
held December 24, 1887 with a performance by Thomas
W. Keene in his signature Shakespearean role as King
Richard III. Scenery was produced by Noxon, Ernest
Albert and Toomey and music provided by the August
In the program for the
Haymarket's grand opening, Davis attempted to draw a
similarity between his theater and the historic
Haymarket in London but in later years he attributed
the theater name to its close proximity to the
Haymarket riots in Chicago.
program included an advertisement for song sheets of
tunes by a youthful looking
Jessie Bartlett Davis.
Andrews Chairs, pictures folding
auditorium seats with a hat clip.
A second fire befell the Haymarket in 1904 but
Davis was no longer involved with the theater.