Christy’s Minstrels: Opening Night of Fifth Avenue Opera House

Event Information

Fifth Avenue Opera House

Manager / Director:
George N. Christy

Jacob [minstrel] Tannenbaum

Event Type:

Record Information


Last Updated:
7 June 2016


Announcement: New York Clipper, 28 October 1865, 230.

The New Minstrel Opera House in Fifth Avenue, will be opened on the 6th of November, under the management of Geo. Christy, with the following company:  George Christy, W.S. Budworth, Fred. Abbott, J.W. Hilton, W. Hodgkin, Chas. Angello, Jacob Tennenbaum, Carl Benedict, Louis Collins, Charles Gardner, C. Mead, August Anthony, S. Watson, and others.  The building was formerly known as Gallaber’s Gold Exchange, and has been fitted up in first class style.  A feature in the instrumental department will be an Alexander organ, which, it is said, is equal to a dozen instruments.”

Advertisement: New York Clipper, 28 October 1865, 231.
Announcement: New York Clipper, 04 November 1865, 238.

George Christy's Opera House, now rapidly approaching completion, is expected to be ready for occupancy on or about the 6th inst. The building, which is a beautiful one, was originally built by Mr. Gallaber, the present owner, for the Board of Brokers, but it was short lived as a broker’s resort, and was finally deserted by the bold financiers. Mr. Gallaber has gone to considerable expense in altering it to a Minstrel Hall. The building, which is three stories in height, is situated on Twenty-Fourth street next door to the Fifth Avenue Hotel; has a front on Twenty-Fourth street of 47 feet 6 inches, is 96 feet deep, and two stories high.  The hall, which has been adapted to burnt cork, is on the second story.  It is one of the handsomest halls in the city.  The floor has been raised so that a good view can be had of the stage, a gallery has been built and a good stage constructed.  The stage is 32 feet deep and 45 feet wide from wall to wall, the proscenium is 27 feet wide and 20 feet high.  There are four grooves.  Over the stage, and close to the proscenium are two good sized dressing rooms and under the stage is a large washroom.  The drop curtain represents Byron’s dream.  The parquet is seated with Allen’s patent opera chairs, and the gallery with cushioned benches. The seating capacity is about 1600. The hall is heated by patent furnaces and for ventilation there is no better place in the country.  There are windows all around the house, while from the dome there is an opportunity for a current of fresh air all the time. The hall will be lighted by one of Frink’s patent reflectors from the centre of the dome, and on each side of the stage is a status holding a branch with small jets of gas. The entrance is on Twenty-fourth street up two wide staircases. On the corner of Fifth avenue and Twenty-fourth street there will be one of the largest size prismatic lights representing a hand and pointing down Twenty-fourth street. It is now on its way from London, England.  It is said to have cost $1200.  Taken altogether, it is one of the handsomest and best arranged minstrel halls in the country, and with a first class company there is no reason why it should not succeed.  In its immediate vicinity are four or five hotels; these alone should afford sufficient patronage for any one place of amusement.  George Christy will manage the new place, while Ance [sic] Wood will attend to the advertising business.”

Advertisement: New York Herald, 06 November 1865, 7.

Christy’s Minstrels “are now making a short tour prior to the inauguration of their elegant Marble Hall.”

Announcement: New York Herald, 25 November 1865, 4.

Describes the physical attributes of the new venue.

Advertisement: New York Clipper, 27 November 1865, 272.

Performers given. 

Announcement: New York Herald, 30 November 1865.

“Spacious and elegant building.” For a more detailed description of the building, see NYH 11/25/65.

Announcement: New York Clipper, 02 December 1865, 270.

George Christy’s Minstrels open their New Opera House in this city on the 30th inst.”

Review: New York Herald, 02 December 1865, 4.

“The opening of the new fifth Avenue Opera House by the George Christy Minstrel Company was a most decided and flattering success.  The elegant hall was crowded and its comfortable arrangements full appreciated.  There is fine vocal and instrumental music and purely original Ethiopian representations every night.  George Christy will give a matinee at the Opera house this (Saturday) afternoon.”

Review: New York Clipper, 09 December 1865, 278.

“George Christy’s new minstrel Opera House, located on Twenty-fourth street, near the Fifth avenue Hotel, and formerly known as Gallaher’s Gold Exchange, was opened to the public on Nov. 30th.  On the 1st inst., we were present and found the parquet comfortably filled, but not crowded, and the dress circle not quite full. The Hall is a very pretty one and will compare favorable with any in the country. The circle is seated with benches well upholstered, and the parquet with Allen’s patent revolving chairs. The stage is well supplied with scenery, and the ‘drop,’ representing Byron’s dream, is a very creditable work of art. The company numbers fourteen people in the first part.  George Christy and W.S. Budworth have the ends. George Hall is interlocutor and basso, Walter Birch tenor, J. Tannenbaum, leader, and Mr. Wannemacher second violin.  F. Abbott is wench dancer, C. Gardiner wooden shoe dancer, and Mast. Frank Budworth song and dance.  George Christy is perfectly at home with the bones, and his song and jokes take very well with the audience. He told one new gag, at least we had never heard it before as he told it, and it was refreshing to hear one new gag, which is a rarity now-a-days with minstrel companies. The rest of the gags by the end-men were old, the majority of which were very flat, stale, and unprofitable. Budworth does pretty well on his end; he has toned himself down so much to suit the locality that nearly all of his former coarseness and rough gags have disappeared.  Mr. Hall’s style of opening the evening’s entertainment was certainly original with him, and we cannot say that it is very elegant.  He said, ‘Gentlemen, we will commence with the first thing on the programme, which is the overture.’ This speech was a little too much for a number in our immediate neighborhood, who had to snicker right out in meeting. Mr. Hall is a pretty good middle man and seems to understand his business thoroughly, but he should correct this little fault. The instrumental music is pretty fair, but the singing is below mediocrity, and certainly not what such an audience as is expected to patronize the establishment will much relish. Mr. Birch is by no means even a second rate tenor, and Mr. Hall is certainly not a good basso. The quartet is not exactly what it should be. A better singing party must be engaged if the company wish to succeed. The olio business commenced with J. E. Green’s singing of the ‘Mocking Bird,’ with imitations, and it was one of the best things we ever listened to.  He was very loudly applauded and deservedly received a hearty encore. F. Abbott next appeared in a wench dance. This style of business is about played out with first class minstrel companies, very few such companies having it on their bills. Without a first class dancer it is simply ridiculous to have it done. The Challenge Dance followed, and in it George Christy created a great deal of laughter and was very funny. With one exception we never saw it done better. W. S. Budworth sang a new song on Barnum’s Museum, accompanied on the banjo. It is a good subject but is very poorly written up, some of the verses being out of rhythm and anything but funny. The rest of the program was pretty good. George Christy is performing now better than we ever saw him before, and is working very hard to make his place succeed, which there is not a doubt of if he will make several changes and engage a really good quartet, all of whom should be solo singers.”