Monday, April 21, 2008

A Little Taste Of History (8)

Happenings During The 1800s In NYC #1

Probably the first entertainment of a theatrical character given in Brooklyn, was that by George Frederick Handel (George Handel Hill) in a hotel in Front near James street, about 1825-8. Handel, or Hill, afterward famous as Yankee Hill, was then locally noted as a very clever comic singer and dancer. His entertainment consisted of songs and dances, the Indian war dance, then "new and popular," being an attraction. The pecuniary success of this entertainment is very doubtful, but as Hill shortly after received and accepted an offer from the manager of a traveling company on the strength of it, I infer that it was otherwise artistically considered.

In December, 1825, a colored comedian, Mr. Hewlett, quite a celebrity at that time, gave an entertainment at Duilon's famous Military Garden, at the junction of Fulton and Joralemon streets (the site of the present Kings County Court House). The Long Island Star, December 22d, 1825, informs us that Mr. Hewlett was "a native of our own dear Island of Nassau. Rockaway being said to be the place of his birth. He was announced (in Kean's style) as "Shakespeare's proud representative." Mr. Hewlett recited Shakespeare and other standard authors and dramatists, indulging in imitations of Kean, Matthews, Phillips and other eminent actors. The Star says he had a good voice and figure.

The Brooklyn Amphitheatre, a fine, large frame building on the east side of Fulton, just below Concord street, was erected in the spring of 1828, by the proprietors of the Lafayette and Mount Pitt "establishments" in New York, and opened in July by an equestrian company. From a notice in the L.I. Star I learn that the still popular melo-drama of the "Broken Sword" was the initial bill, and that it was finely mounted, appointed and performed, and "attracted the silent and orderly attention of the audience." The Star remarks, depreciatingly, that "nothing but a higher species of gratification, combining intellect with show, can be expected to succeed' in Brooklyn.

The Antheneum on the corner of Atlantic and Clinton streets, was founded in 1852. Both dramatic and operatic performances have been given there, although the stage is ill adapted to either, being small and incap[able of scenic display. (11)

Sources Utilized to Document A Little Taste Of History

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