Academy of Music

image description
Bidwell's Academy of Music from the Illustrated Visitor's Guide to New Orleans

Photo Credit: "Academy of Music." Illustrated Visitor's Guide to New Orleans. 1879. March 2004 Images of the Month. New Orleans City Archives.

Contributors

The Academy of Music was one of southern entrepreneur David Bidwell’s many theatres in New Orleans. Bidwell built, managed, and acted in theatres across the South and around the world. Out of all his theatres, the Academy was his favorite. He ran the Academy from 1856 to 1889. When he started the Academy, he also created the first theatre in the Academy of Music circuit that spread across the country. [1] The theatre continued to operate after his death until it was destroyed in a fire on February 11, 1903. [2]

Location

The building of the Academy of Music was built in 1853 by George Lawrason. This building was first used as an amphitheatre for the circus. When another theatre in the city, the Varieties, burned down the next year, Lawrason converted the amphitheatre to a regular theatre called the Pelican. In 1856, Bidwell, along with two other men, Rogers and Spalding, completely renovated the theatre and renamed it the Academy of Music. [3] After briefly going by the name the Pelican, it was renamed the Audubon after the community voted. [4]

David Bidwell

David Bidwell was born in Stuyvesant, Louisiana in June of 1821. He was artistic as a child. He became interested in theatre by selling tickets for New York theatres during the winter when he could not work on steamboats with his father. In 1946 he followed his brother to New Orleans to make his fortune, but it would take him ten years to finally find his career when he bought the Academy of Music from Lawrason. David Bidwell owned both the St. Charles Theatre and the Academy of Music as well as leased and managed the Grand Opera House. In addition, he owned theatres in St. Louis, Memphis, Mobile, Paris, and Havana. He gave up managing both the St. Charles Theatre and the Grand Opera but maintained management of the Academy of Music up until his death on December 18, 1889. He was the second oldest active theatre manager in the United States at the time of his death. [5] While he was alive, Bidwell’s theatres often advertised and booked shows together. [6]

Performances

While the Academy of Music was part of David Bidwell’s consortium of theatres, the Academy showcased more variety in the types of performances than some of his other theatres. Far from the grandeur of the French Opera House, some types of performances included lower class forms of entertainment. A list of coming attractions in 1895 show that Joseph Jefferson, Down in Dixie, as well as many minstrel groups were coming to the Academy of Music that year. [7] The same year, Roland Reed and Company, under the direction of E. B. Jack, was the current resident acting company. In February they performed the satirical comedy The Politician with the help of orchestral director William Mische. [8]

Destruction

At the time of its destruction in 1903, George K. Pratt owned the Academy of Music. He also had bought the St. Charles Theatre. The New Orleans Amusement Company was leasing the theatre and the Baldwin-Melvin Stock Company was performing that season. The night of Feburary 11, the theatre caught fire. Firemen and the sailors of the ship Tage both tried to save the building, but it burned within an hour. [9]

Works Cited

  • “David Bidwell Dead.” The New York Times. 19 December 1889.
  • Tourists Guide Book to the City of New Orleans. 6th Edition. New Orleans: The Picayune, 1904.
  • “David Bidwell Dead.” The New York Times. 19 December 1889.
  • Tourists Guide Book to the City of New Orleans. 6th Edition. New Orleans: The Picayune, 1904.
  • “David Bidwell Dead.” The New York Times. 19 December 1889.
  • “Academy of Music Week of Sunday, February 24, 1895.” Programs- Theatre 1-10. Box 13. New Orleans City Archives. p. 7.
  • “Academy of Music Week of Sunday, February 24, 1895.” Programs- Theatre 1-10. Box 13. New Orleans City Archives. p. 7.
  • “Academy of Music Week of Sunday, February 24, 1895.” Programs- Theatre 1-10. Box 13. New Orleans City Archives. p. 3-5.
  • “Southern Theatre Burned.” The New York Times. 12 February 1903.

This page was last modified on 13 April 2012, at 02:28

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Academy of Music

414 St Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA