The Casino

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The Casino (later Walker's Casino, Mortimer's Theatre and Mortimer's Dime Theatre) was a playhouse located at 2223-2225 2nd Avenue North in the 1880s.

John Caldwell bought a brick-walled livery stable owned by W. F. Orr in the early 1880s and furnished it as a 1,600 seat theater. It was leased in 1888 by Harry Walker who hired Fred Mortimer as his stage manager. Early performers included Master DeIvy, the aerial wonder; R. G. Gordern, burlesque skater; D. T. Steacy, mesmerist; Billy Kersand's minstrels; MacFlinn's Hippolimpiad; Prof. Newton, bicycle rider; Hawood and Watkins' Black Diamond Minstels; and a program of "Magnificent Works of Art" projected by magic lantern.

In 1886 the theater underwent a major refurbishing and the Alvin Joslin Orchestra was secured for the season. Highlights of that year's programs included the McCord Plain Everyday Comedy Company, Roltair and Fox magicians, Rentfrow's Jolly Pathfinders, the Georgia Minstrels, Charles Gilday's Comedy Company, Carrie Stanley, and an end-of-season lecture by Senator John Tyler Morgan.

In 1887 the theater was renovated again with a new Casino Bar operated by "expert mixologist" Charles A. Brown. Professor C. A. Lily's orchestra was engaged for the season and Mortimer booked a series of theater companies to stage variety shows for about a month each.

In 1888 the theater company was led by Charles M. Walker as president and A. A. Mabson as treasurer. J. R. Brewer managed the theater and C. A. Brown managed the bar. C. A. Lilly was music director and W. H. Mizener was employed as the theater's scenery artist.

Later that year, after runs by the Minnie Wallace Burlesque Company, the Forman-Morton Company, and the All-Star Specialty Company, Mortimer, the stage manager, bought out Walker and changed the name of the theatre. The remainder of the season featured Sneddon's Burlesque Company, Diane McCord and Company, and McCabe and Young's Operatic Minstrels.

The area around the theater, called "Buzzard's Roost" after a nearby saloon, was increasingly unpalatable to the public. By 1889 Mortimer was struggling to keep the hall filled. The short season, during which ticket prices were dropped to 10¢, was highlighted by the Original New Orleans Minstrels. In November 1889 a burglary was reported at the vacant theater and manager Billy Ryan had slipped town, leaving numerous debts unpaid.

Most of eastern 2nd Avenue, including the 2200 and 2300 blocks, were rebuilt in a major renewal project of the 1890s. The former theater was used as the site for W. S. Brown's general merchandise store, erected in 1905.

References

  • Birmingham Suburban and Bessemer Directory (1888) Birmingham: R. L. Polk & Co., p. 38
  • Chiles, Ruth (1936) "The Birmingham Theatres, 1886-1900". M.A. thesis, Birmingham-Southern College