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1/12/2013 9:50:00 PM
Days Past: History of the Elks Opera House from the ground up - Part II
Sharlot Hall Museum/Courtesy photo 
Florence Roberts poses in costume as the title character from ‘Marta of the Lowlands’ in a story that appeared in the Arizona Journal-Miner newspaper dated Feb. 15, 1905.
Sharlot Hall Museum/Courtesy photo
Florence Roberts poses in costume as the title character from ‘Marta of the Lowlands’ in a story that appeared in the Arizona Journal-Miner newspaper dated Feb. 15, 1905.
Sharlot Hall Museum/Courtesy photoThis illustrated advertisement of Florence Roberts was used in the Feb. 19, 1905, Arizona Journal-Miner newspaper.
Sharlot Hall Museum/Courtesy photo

This illustrated advertisement of Florence Roberts was used in the Feb. 19, 1905, Arizona Journal-Miner newspaper.
Days Past is a weekly feature in the Courier, supplied by Sharlot Hall Museum volunteers, chronicling historic events in Prescott.
Special to the Courier

Last week, we learned how the Prescott Elks Lodge #330 raised funds to construct the Elks Building with an added opera house. This week the story continues.

After setting the date for the grand opening of the Elks Opera House for Feb. 20, 1905, the Elks Lodge began to search for a major opening attraction for the show that night. After much debate, they decided to try to get the Florence Roberts troupe, which was on a major national tour at that time. Although forgotten today, the San Francisco-based Florence Roberts was one of the most prominent touring actresses on the road at that time. She drew big audiences wherever she went and was the toast of San Francisco for many years. Florence's manager, Arthur F. Warde, (himself an Elk) arrived in Prescott to negotiate with the lodge and a deal was struck for Florence Roberts and her troupe to open the Elks Opera House with the play "Marta of the Lowlands" by renowned Spanish-Catalan playwright Angel Guimera.

Once the news hit the streets, a photo of Florence Roberts was posted on a bulletin board at the Wellington store. Tickets went on sale on Feb. 17 at Brisley's Drug Store, at a price of $25.00 for the lower box seats, $20 for the upper boxes, and a price of $2.50 for every seat in the house and $1 for a seat in the gallery. Box seats were purchased by Will L. Clark, who purchased two of them, and in addition to his wife, had as his guests Judge and Mrs. Richard E. Sloan, Mr. And Mrs. J.C. Herndon, Mr. And Mrs. T.G. Norris, and Mr. And Mrs. F.L. Wright. The other boxes were taken by Mr. And Mrs. H.P. Anewalt, with Mr. And Mrs. W.S. Goldworthy as their guests. Maj. and Mrs. Foster of Fort Whipple were given a box as a gift by F.M. Murphy. E.E. Greenwood also purchased a box for the evening. Ultimately, all tickets sold out very quickly.

Finally, the big day came: Feb. 20, 1905. The Elks contracted with a local florist, Mrs. H.E. Armitage, to set up a stand in the lobby to supply fresh cut roses, violets, and carnations to all patrons who wished them. The orchestra for the evening consisted of Dr. W.S. Smith as conductor, Ernest Emanuel, Richard Lamson, Joe Archambeau, Professor Ellert, a Mr. Squfflet, S.L. Hamilton, George Travis, and Note Allison. Florence Roberts and her troupe arrived earlier that day on train No. 8 from California via Ask Fork. Her entourage of prominent San Francisco actors, all of whom had multiple plays committed to memory, included Melbourne McDowell, Lucius Henderson, William Yearance, Chester Lynton, Sterling Lord Whitney, Gregory Rogers, Forrest Seabury, Philip Lard, Al White, Adele Bosworth, Louise Royce, Georgie Woodthorpe, Lillian Armsby, Stella Rosetti, Anita Allen, and child actress Ollie Cooper.

The grand opening went off flawlessly. Florence Roberts and "Marta of the Lowlands" brought down the house. It should be noted what kind of play "Marta of the Lowlands" was as much may have been forgotten of the world today, but it was a drama of some considerable importance in its era. Author Angel Guimera was the best-known Catalan writer of his time, and while highly renowned in his own land, "Marta" (or rather, "Terra Baixa" as it was called in Catalan) brought him to the attention of the western world. The story involves a kept peasant woman, Marta, who is forced by her "master," the villainous Don Sebastian, to marry a simple shepherd named Manelich, who does not understand what is really going on. In Guimera's homeland of Spanish Catalonia, the play was influential beyond imagining. Manelich became a hero for the ages, and a statue was erected to him in Barcelona in 1909. To this day, streets and businesses in Barcelona remain named after Manelich, rare examples of monuments being erected to a fictitious character. While Guimera and Manelich are no longer remembered in the rest of the world, the show and its author remain vastly admired in Spanish Catalonia, where "Marta of the Lowlands" ("Terra Baixa") is still revived regularly, and the role of Manelich is much sought after.

Following her performance at the grand opening of the Elks Opera House, Florence Roberts and her troupe left immediately for Phoenix, where they had a booking at the Hardwick Theatre the next day. The Elks, however, began its long, colorful, and often turbulent presence in Prescott's history.

Parker Anderson is a historian for the Elks Opera House and has recently written a book on its history, complete with many photos, which is available at the Sharlot Hall Museum Store.

This and other Days Past articles are available at The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Please contact Scott Anderson at Sharlot Hall Museum Archives at 445-3122 or via email at for information.

Related Stories:
• Days Past: The Cactus Derby of 1914 - Part I
• Days Past: Big Nose Kate, an Arizona amazon
• Days Past: John Charles Frémont: 5th Territorial Governor of Arizona
• Days Past: History of the Elks Opera House from the ground up: Part I
• Days Past: Army Chaplain Winfield Scott: An honored Prescott pastor
• Days Past: Christmas in the wilderness, 1863
• Days Past: Fitzmaurice Ruin: Prescott Valley's timeless treasure - Part II

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Reader Comments

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Article comment by: Poor Parker. Still trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

It's OK. It was what it was. Nothing more and nothing less. Find something else to write about. Something more interesting and with more substance... PLEASE!

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Article comment by: Flo & Eddie

@Steven Ayres
Come on dude. Give it a rest. We get it. You post this on every single reference to that building. Your cause is quite Steele-ish. Take it from a fan of your blogs, this hang-up takes away credibility from your otherwise refreshing voice out there in the darkness. I appreciate your motivation from an historical standpoint. But are you equally obsessed with the very round Madison Square Garden’s name?

Posted: Sunday, January 13, 2013
Article comment by: Steven Ayres

Isn't it odd that nether of the the handbills pictured here refer to the theatre as an "opera house"?

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