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When Columbus’ David Sechrest dug into the history of the Crump Theatre, he discovered a bit of digging from others as well.
He found that the venue’s financier and namesake, John Crump, had a tunnel dug connecting the theater built in 1889 with his Belvedere Hotel across Third Street.
Other bits of trivia included a performance by famous blues and jazz singer Ethel Waters in April 1935 at the Crump.
“I doubt that anyone reading these words knows that one,” Sechrest said.
Once they read his new book, “Columbus, Indiana’s Historic Crump Theatre” (160 pages, The History Press, $19.99), they will know plenty more. Sechrest will speak about the volume at a 7 p.m. Oct. 10 presentation at the Bartholomew County Public Library, 536 Fifth St., Columbus. He also will sign copies at an upcoming appearance at Columbus’ Viewpoint Books.
The Crump building has served as an opera house, a home for silent movies, concerts and community theater, among other events.
First-time author Sechrest first was drawn to the Crump while perusing the scrapbook of Joan Weinantz, John Crump’s granddaughter.
“It is the last remaining, physical evidence of our cultural arts heritage,” Sechrest said.
He referred to the fact that, in 1908, there were six theaters in downtown Columbus, all within four blocks of one another. The Crump is the only one left.
You’re still somewhat attached to the old place?
Even though my book is finished, I still continue to search through old copies of the paper, noting pertinent info and trivia regarding the Crump.
Given the time of year, we have to ask: Are there really ghosts in the Crump?
Some believe there are. I was not able to locate information of anyone who ever committed suicide inside the Crump (as stories go, one person supposedly jumped from the balcony, or, another supposedly hung himself underneath the stage. Take your pick).
The closest I came to such a tragic event occurring happened on April 3, 1908, when Reece Williams fell some 30 feet while sleeping on a cot in the fly gallery, and landed on the stage. At first, people thought he was dead, but as it turns out, he broke his leg. He missed that evening’s performance but was still with us.
Will it be saved or restored? Your gut feeling?
Gut feeling? Yes. It will be. But that’s my heart speaking. John Crump built this theater for the people of Columbus. He could have invested his money in other business opportunities and made much more money.
Instead, he had built the finest theater in all of southern Indiana at the time. Although he spent his own money, this was a public enterprise, and it was referred to as the people’s theater. I want to believe that there are still people like John Crump out there.
What would you like to see happen to it?
Let’s face it: We really don’t have much choice in this matter. It will never be a full-fledged movie theater again. So, a place for the performing arts would be perfect. I envision it becoming an anchor in our cultural arts district. Personally, I would like to see it restored to its original 1941 interior design, complete with the light-activated water fountains, as this design would stay in tune with architect Alden Meranda’s art-deco front, and would jive with our city’s modern architecture theme.
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