About Harlan Hall - Property Ownership

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It seems that after the purchase of the site by Harlan in 1861, he owned and operated a livery stable in a frame building. An ad in the Clark County Herald, Friday, August 13, 1869, is "Howard Harlan - Livery, Sale & Feed Stable, Southeast Corner, Public Square, Marshall, Illinois."

In the Friday, Sept. 1, 1871, issue of the Clark County Herald, "We are informed that Mr. Howard Harlan has about concluded to erect over his livery stable a public hall of sufficient capacity to accommodate one thousand people. Mr. H. has already begun the improvements upon his large livery establishment, transforming it into a brick structure and now that the work is underway, he seriously contemplates the addition of the second story, of brick also, and to consist of a hall forty by eighty feet in size, with a commodius stage and seats. The importance of a hall of this description--one sufficient, commodius to justify large travel exhibitions and important public meetings and other assemblies that would require it--in coming here and occupying it, has long been felt in this community, and would no doubt pay well to its owner,  and we do trust that Mr. Harlan, having in view the well known demand for a good hall, may conclude to build one, especially as he has now a splendid chance to do it cheaper than 'anybody else possibly can and at the same time he will greatly aid the town in its prosperity as well as bring to himself the gratitude of our people...And we trust he will not let slip this opportunity to make his corner one of the best and most attractive in town.

The news of a proposed hall also spread. In the Friday, Sept. 22, 1871 issue of the Clark Co. Herald: "The Lecture Bureau of Terre Haute (IN), under the management of Loke, Walmsley & Co. have secured the services of Mrs. General Lander, Shakespearan reader, Mark Twain, Oliver Optig, and Charles Sussner, as lecturers to favor the people with this season. When our Opera House is completed, we may have some amusements over here, but until that is done our people will have to visit Terre Haute for Entertainment."

"Harlan Hall takes on its roof this week and is to be hurried to completion" appeared in the Clark Co. Herald on Friday, Nov. 24, 1871. The Herald further states on Friday, Dec. 1, 1871: "A theatrical company intending to travel, when not otherwise engaged, has been organized at Terre Haute. They will probably make their debut at Harlan Hall in this city, if completed in time.

Completion of the hall must have moved along rapidly as the Friday, Jan. 12, 1872, Herald states: "Howard Harlan's City Hall approaching completion, the plasterers and carpenters being engaged in putting on the finishing touches. It is contemplated dedicating it February 14 with a grand ball." The Feb. 2, 1872, paper continue: to anticipate the hall's completion with: "We are to have that prince of humorists, F. G. White, with a first class stock company at Harlan Hall, about March 1."

Excitement in the community continued to grow as the Friday, Feb. 9, 1872, Clark Co. Herald stated: "The dedication ball is the only topic of conversation among those who intend to trip the light fantastic toe on that occasion. It will of course be the affair of the seasons, as everybody will be there dressed in their best.... Mr. Chenoweth, of the Chenoweth House, will prepare a supper for guests, tickets for which can be obtained of Mr. Howard Harlan at $1.50 per couple and 75 cents, for a single person!

The ball must have been quite an event for Marshall. The Feb. 16, 1872, Clark Co. Herald had an article stating that: "Harlan's new Hall brilliantly illuminated with large and select assembly -­ The opening a success on Wednesday evening, February 14, 1872. It is universally admitted that a larger and more select company never assembled together than graced the interior of "Harlan's beautiful Hall" on that occasion.

The hall was beautifully illuminated, eight lights burning at each of the twenty-two windows--the interior was supplied with ten chandeliers, containing thirty-five lamps.

The company commenced assembling at about 8 o'clock and was composed of most of our best citizens, together with ladies and gentlemen: from Springfield, Effingham, Casey, Martinsville, York, Westfield, Darwin, Illinois, and from Terre Haute, Indiana, in all about two hundred and fifty. The music was furnished by Prof. Tonti's full quadrille band of Terre Haute. ...At 12 o'clock supper was announced and the large assembly repaired to the Chenoweth House.

...The hall is one hundred feet deep by forty feet wide and is capable of seating seven hundred people. The ceiling is eighteen feet high ornamented by three circles beautifully painted from which are suspended three large chandeliers, with gasoline lamps. The chairs are placed in half circles, with an aisle on each side and one in the centre [sic];

The stage is twenty feet deep by forty wide with an opening of twenty-six feet in width, which has been supplied with a beautiful drop curtain. The wings, four in number on each side, are beautifully painted; while two pieces of statuary ornament the Sides of the opening. In the rear of the stage is a small room partitioned off to be used for a dressing room for companies playing there, a cloak room for balls and parties. The footlights, 21 in number, are arranged by a tube.

The entrances are easy, being by two double doors, and a broad stairway. At the foot of the stairs is to be erected two small offices, one of which will be used by the proprietor, and the other for use as a ticket office. The whole building is 125 feet by forty feet and was erected at a cost of $6,000 which shows the spirit of enterprise by the builder....

He has fixed his term for rent of $20 a night which is as reasonable a figure as anyone could ask.... We doubt if there is a hall in the West arranged as well as Harlan's Hall, that can be rented for that price."

In the same issue: "Howard Harlan liberally gave the "Young America" a social hop at his new hall on Tuesday evening. There were about twenty couples in attendance and all appeared to relish the treat. Music was discoursed by the Marshall string band."

On September 11, 1875, is the recording of a mortgage on the hall for $6,000. Mr. Harlan also built a hotel across the street to the west. This was later the site of the Marshall House Hotel which burned April 27, 1983. Harlan Hall, although a dominant force in the cultural development of Marshall, changed ownership several times. In 1887, Mr. Harlan seems to have run into serious financial trouble and moved to Wayne County. The Hall and Hotel were both sold the following year.

The First Methodist Church was across the alley just south of Harlan Hall. Their records show that in 1873, 103 members of their church were baptized in the Hall. The first baptism was Stephen Archer, a descendent of the founder of Marshall. In the late 1880's this church had the need for a new building and decided to relocate their new sanctuary to Seventh and Plum Streets. The major reason for the relocation was the odor from the livery stables at Harlan Hall.

The opera house continued in operation into the early 1900's and in 1904 was purchased by B. F. Johnson. The building was then called Johnson Hall. About 1902, the Knights of Pythias built a new temple just a block west. Their new three story building had an auditorium, permanent seats, sloped floor and stage. Silent films where shown here starting about 1905 and it was converted into a silent movie theatre. Local musicians played the piano for the films until "talkies" arrived in the late 1920's. The theatre was named the Strand Theatre and was in use until it burned July 22, 1957. With the arrival of films, the use of the opera house began its decline. However, it was still used for many purposes such as school activities, plays, musicals, boxing matches, roller skating, dinners, a dance studio, and receptions.

Prior to 1920 the lower floor was modified to be used for retail space and in the 1920's was the Hercules Paint Store. The upper floor near the street was used for storage and the manufacturing of hog houses. A large beam and pulley at the top of the middle second floor door on the front of the building was used for raising building materials, and for lowering the finished hog houses that had been constructed on the upper level. Some first floor windows were modified at that time with larger plate glass for retail display spaces. The building was later used for the manufacture of Sane Crystals which was a form of laxative. After some brief periods of vacancy the lower floor became an International Harvester dealer selling farm equipment supplies.

In 1954, the building was purchased by the Loyal Order of Moose and became Lodge #1708. They owned the building with an active lodge from that date until the lodge disbanded in December, 2000. The organization sold the building to the City of Marshall, April 18, 2001. Current plans are to renovate and restore the building and use the first floor as a community center with the restored second floor for music, theatre, and civic use, possibly even a museum area.