Marker Text: Theater in Columbus found its finest home on February 27, 1871, when Francis Joseph Springer, originally from Alsace, opened his opera house. The Springer’s forty foot deep stage held a continuous round of shows of every description.
Here Edwin Booth played Hamlet, February 15, 1876, on his first Southern tour after the War. “Blind Tom” Bethune, the egro musical prodigy born near Columbus, performed here often. Oscar Wilde and Williams Jennings Bryan lectured here. John L. Sullivan, the world champion gave a boxing exhibition; and Mrs. John Drew grandmother of the Barrymores, starred in She Stoops to Conquer. Here in 1928, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered a “Happy Warrior” speech in behalf of presidential nominee Al Smith.
In 1902 the Springer sons completely renovated their opera house. From that time until it became a movie house in 1941, the Springer continued to be the city’s cultural center.
In 1959 the Springer closed, and in the Spring of 1964, The Columbus Little Theater Opera House Trustees was formed to prevent its destruction. On October 6, 1965, The Little Theater’s musical production of St. Elmo, based upon the Victorian novel by Columbus-born author, Augusta Evans Wilson, was presented amidst the Springer’s restored Victorian splendor.