Blog Post #3: Our History: Fire, fire! | ACADEMY OF MUSIC

Lobby chandelier

By Executive Director Debra J’Anthony

As with many theaters built in the late 19th century, the Academy was lit with both incandescent and gas lamps.  Gas lamps in the ceiling were also used as a draft to pull hot air up and out the cupola.  On the Academy stage there were 250 gas lamps, used to light performances. In one of the early Republican articles on May 24, 1891, a reporter wrote:

 “So well has the stage lighting been planned that the dangers from fire seem to be almost wholly eliminated.”

Surprisingly, I had not discovered any incidence of fire at the Academy during the period of gas lamps in any of our local newspapers. However, there was the occasional scare as noted in a December 4, 1900 Gazette article:

“The cry of ‘fire, fire’ at the Academy of Music Monday night created a big commotion for a short time. During the play of Madame Sans Gene before a large audience, several young men made a disturbance and McClellan Dow, a special officer, undertook to get them out of the gallery. During the fracas someone in the audience shouted, ‘Fire them out!’ This was understood by others to be a ‘cry of fire,’ and there was a great scramble on the part of the audience to get out of the house. It was quickly emptied, but as soon as it was learned that it was a false alarm, people returned and the play went on as though nothing unusual had happened.”

In the past five years, in an effort to go green, the Academy has replaced most of its incandescent lamps with LED fixtures, including some stage lights!

Help restore the Academy! We’re replacing the seats in the auditorium, repairing and repainting the ornate plaster, insulating and replacing the stage roof, and adding aisle lighting. Learn more.