Click Here to Return to Index

Click Here to Return to Milestones

Memoir of Old Sixth Avenue Theater

Milestones Vol 24. No. 4

By Charlie Medley

The famous "Sixth Avenue Theatre" was formerly located on the corner of Seventh Street and Sixth Avenue, Beaver Falls, PA. The Theatre building was erected by Frederick G. Rohrkaste in 1882 for a Skating Rink as the roller skating craze was sweeping the country at that time. Changed from a rink to a Theatre in 1885, with Charles W. Rohrkaste, manager, the first production was presented by the McCall Opera Company in the fall of 1885 featuring Gilbert and Sullivan's "Mikado".

The structure was one of the most unique in Western Pennsylvania, the auditorium being equipped with an elevated floor which could be removed with a seating capacity of 600. Due to this alteration there was a diversity in entertainment, for example: Thursday night it was a Theatre, Friday night a Dance Hall, and Saturday a Roller Skating Rink or a Prize Fight or Wrestling Arena.

Under its roof have appeared many renowned people and interesting events, a few of which are listed: The Rev. T. DeWitt Talmadge of the Brooklyn Tabernacle, Brooklyn, NY; the famous Sousa Band and Gilmore Band; popular Minstrels of Dockstader, Primrose and West, Al. G. Fields and Hi Henry. Also performing there were many well known and champion boxers including John L. Sullivan, Peter Jackson, George Dixon, Jack Dempsey (the Nonpareil),J ames J. Corbett, Robert Fitzsimmons and James J. Jeffnes. There were outstanding stage productions with Clara Morris, Maud Granger, Si Perkins, Chauncey Olcott, Kellar, the Magician; the Black Crook and many Burlesque shows. Also Charles Grapewin in the "Awakening of Mr. Pipp".

Coxey's Army was quartered here overnight on its famous march to Washington.

Entertainment of a miscellaneous nature included: Six Day Walking matches; Six Day Bicycle races; the annual Peg-Leg Ball; a Prize Fight between Bert Schiller and Black Frank; Geor. M. Cohan (then the four Cohans); the Swanky Boys' Club, (events for the elite of the Valley); the famous Noss family of New Brighton; the Harris Quartette; Harris and Murden; Ed. Houck; and the High School Commencement exercises were held here for years.

The Repertoire shows, the best remembered being Corse Payton with his "Ten-Twent and Thirt". Seats priced at $1.20 a dozen in the Gallery.

Frank Cashbaugh succeeded Mr. Rohrkaste as Manager, while I, after serving in most every other capacity, succeeded Mr. Cashbaugh. Other well known Beaver Falls businessmen and residents connected with the Theatre were: Elmer Grant, Sylvester (Muck) Means, and the late Wm. S. Bell. Also (when kids) His Honor, Mayor Dennis Mutscheller, Sam S. Hanauer, Charles Muney, Scott Murphy, Wm. Dithridge and Frank McPherson.

In later years the building was used for Hockey and Polo Games.

This building was razed in 1911. Thus passed one of the most colorful landmarks in the Valley's history, leaving nothing but memories.

From the Beaver Countian