No. 15--Old Oliver theater
Some day when you emerge from the Varsity, 13th and P and look up at the weather your eyes may come to rest on "The Oliver" in old fashioned lettering on the battlements of the ancient building. and for a moment you may idly wonder about the playhouse's past. It does in truth have considerable past, reckoned in terms of famous actors who trod its boards, of orators who thundered in debate over silver and gold standards, suffrage for women and other problems of the past.
The theater, first known as The Lansing, opened in 1891 with Ed Church in charge, and with Lillian Lewis and her company gracing the stage In "L'Article 47" with the sinister subhead "The trail of the serpent is overall." Yet Gen. Victor Vifquain, rhapsodizing in the opening night souvenir booklet, said: "The Lansing will become an athenaeum where a husband can take his wife and daughter, the brother and sister without fear of bringing a blush upon the cheeks of those whose modesty is of priceless value to them and to the community of which they are the ornaments and the pride." Anyway, it was a good old chest-expanding sentence.
A Journal man who has attended shows at this theater off and on for 50 years gives us the following list of famous players he recalls having seen at the Lansing (later Oliver); John Drew, Ethel Barrymore, Edwin Booth, Laurence Barrett, Joe Jefferson, Emma Eames, Sol Smith Russell, Blanche Bates, Billie Burke, George M. Cohan, Weber & Fields, Willie Collier, Otis Skinner, Maxine Elliott, Robert Mantell, Elsie DeWolfe, Nat Goodwin, Dustin Farnam, Minnie Maddern Fiske, Trixie Fraganza, DeWolfe Hopper, Virginia Harned, Elsie Janis, Margaret Illington, Mary Mannering, Julia Marlowe, E. H. Sothern, Lillian Nordica, Alice Nielsen, Chauncey Olcott, May Robson, Eleanor Robson, Stuart Robson, Madame Modjeska.
Vividly connected with the history of the theater, as it is with Lincoln itself, is the name of Frank C. Zehrung, to whom death came recently. For almost 70 years a citizen of Lincoln, he was for perhaps half that time manager of the Oliver.
No. 16--Dr. Harry Everett's home
Before winter puts out a white hand to stay us (which we trust won't be soon, altho there are hints of early frost), it would be pleasant to make a tour of Lincoln gardens. However, we wouldn't want to flatten our sight-seeing noses against front windows, and the gardens which can be seen entire from the street are few. In a simpler day, we Americans put our iron deer and dogs, petunias and hollyhocks in a big front yard and then naively sat on our big front porches to see passersby and have passersby see our elegant homes and lawns. Now that we have grown more Entitle and English and hide gardens in the back and put inscrutable faces on our houses, seeing gardens on a tour isn't so easy. But the gardens are there and one can get pleasing glimpses.
Imagine a Lincoln in which all the houses perched desolately on barren lots. Not a tree, not a curving path, not a flower. Then you will indeed appreciate those patient and imaginative garden lovers who with a few rocks, seeds, hoes and hoses turn desert lots into oases. There are pretty little gardens around modest houses, large beautiful gardens around mansions, altogether making Lincoln a charming lady of gardens.
Peer with us thru Dr. Harry Everett's gates at 2433 Woodscrest for a glimpse of his delightful ivory complexioned house with its maroon awnings and blue windows, and his formal garden. Dr. Everett in an iris specialist and is or has been president of the national iris society.
So charming is this quiet scene, with the September sun falling in bars across the lawn, the soldierly evergreens silently on guard, that even the sudden appearance of five beautiful senoritas on the five balconies would be an intrusion not to be desired.
© 2000, 2001 by Kathie Harrison, Ted & Carole Miller