LIMA — In early June 1908 the Lima Daily News touted the vaudeville acts coming to Lima’s Orphium Family Theatre, conveniently located, the newspaper noted, across from the interurban station on Market Street.
“The fun starts with Kipp and Kippy, comedy jugglers whose act is novel and pleasing,” the newspaper wrote June 9, 1908. “Another feature is Ed Hays, the Chesterfield of Minstrelsy, who has a line of talk with streaks of wit and introduces several clever songs.” All this could be had for a ticket costing from a dime to a quarter. For a similar price, the Faurot Opera House at High and Main streets offered Lima native Grace Darling Huntley giving a dramatic reading of Francesca da Rimini, from Dante’s 13th century “Divine Comedy,” according to the Daily News.
Nearby, tucked away in the southeast corner of the Public Square, the future of entertainment was on display. That same day, the Daily News noted that a motion picture on “The Younger Brothers in their thrilling and exciting deeds and dare devil riding” could be seen at the Dreamland for a nickel.
Collecting those nickels was W.B. Gandy, a Clarksburg, West Virginia, native who set up his theater sometime in early 1908 in a former candy store at #8 Public Square called Candy Dreamland. The site already had a brief history with movies. Around 1906, Charles J. Cochran, of Lima, and John C. Walsh, of East Liverpool, began showing Thomas Edison’s pioneering moving pictures in the former candy store. An April 17, 1906, ad in the Daily News trumpeted the “Big Opening” of Edison’s “latest moving pictures and illustrated songs for ladies, gentlemen and children …” The theater that Cochran and Walsh called the Edisonia didn’t last.
Local historian Ezekiel Owen wrote in December 1926 that Gandy, who opened his Dreamland theater a couple years after the opening of the Edisonia, “may properly be styled the pioneer in the picture show business in Lima.”
Movies in the early days of Dreamland consisted of short, one-reel or two-reel silent movies often accompanied by musicians. On June 5, 1908, the Daily news sang the praises of Dreamland’s music. “Professor Alfred Kreisel, leader of the orchestra at the Dreamland theater, is a musician of note and good on both violin and piano — likewise a composer. The music he is furnishing the patrons of Dreamland speaks for itself.”
Among the first movies, which would not speak for themselves for several decades, Gandy showed was “The Man with the Nervous Twitch.” Although Gandy “was forced to repeat this several times,” the Daily News wrote, the movies proved wildly popular.
Owen wrote that Gandy “was greatly hampered for room, and at performances, evenings especially, a long waiting line extended into the street, but the wait was not tedious as the pictures only lasted for five or ten minutes.” The Lima News, in a September 1938 story reflecting on the city’s early cinema history, wrote of Gandy that “The room he operated in was so small that not more than 80 people could be seated.”
Soon, however, Gandy was no longer the only show in town. In the late spring of 1908, “G.O. Dupuis came from Toledo and after much difficulty (finding space) rented” a room in the northeast quadrant of the Square. “He was experienced in the picture business and immediately opened up the second picture house in Lima, calling it ‘The Royal,’ the Daily News wrote.
“A short time afterwards,” according to the Daily News, “the third show opened in the first room south of the square on the east side of Main Street. The room backed up against ‘The Dreamland.’ The new show did not make good, so Mrs. Gandy purchased it and made it his projection room, with the curtain in the west end. He then converted the old room into an entrance and nickolodeum, having all sorts of penny slot machines on each side, at which his patrons could amuse themselves while awaiting their entrance in the projection room.”
Gandy and Dupuis engaged in a lively competition. “Mr. Gandy put in what he called a new mirror screen, and Mr. Dupuis countered with a radium gold bronze fiber screen,” Owen wrote in 1926, dismissing the new screens as “an advertising scheme more than anything else.”
On another occasion, according to Owen, Gandy, to call attention to his theater, “rigged up one of the screechy old talking machines” to blare into the Square seeking patrons for his theater. Dupuis followed suit and soon the Square was filled “with weird noises until occupants of the blocks about the square began to complain and finally stopped it.”
In 1914, Dupuis bought Dreamland. Gandy, the Lima Republican-Gazette wrote Oct. 23, 1914, “was not only a pioneer in this city, but in the state for at the time the Dreamland opened here there were only two movie houses in Cincinnati, two in Toledo, one in Columbus and perhaps a few other scattered over the state.” Meanwhile, the Daily News wrote that Gandy “by being early on the scene, hauled in the nickels and dimes and found the moving picture business to be anything but slow in Lima. Through his success, Lima now has nine moving picture houses.”
A half dozen years later, that number was diminished. In October 1920, Dupuis sold the Dreamland to George Mallers, who also operated the Lyric and Rialto theaters in Lima.
On March 4, 1921, the Dreamland lease was transferred to Joseph B. Cook and W. Roy Anderson, of Sidney, who, according to The Lima News, “are the owners of several of these specialized sandwich shops.” The first of those specialized hamburger shops was opened by Spot Miller in Sidney in 1907. Cook and Homer Spence bought the restaurant when Miller retired in 1913. Spence sold his interest to Anderson in 1915.
Cook and Anderson started a chain of “Spot to Eat” restaurants in Athens, Urbana, Bellefontaine and, in 1921, at the site of the former Dreamland theater in Lima. Only the Sidney restaurant remains today.
The Spot in Lima, which became Cook’s Spot in 1938, moved to a new spot in 1949. “The building on the southeast corner of Main street and the Public Square, housing the Carl H. McMillen Appliance Sales on the main floor and the Hamburger King in the basement, changed hands last week for a reported $17,000. New owner is Joseph Cook, Sidney, owner of the Spot restaurant here,” the News reported Jan. 16, 1949.
The Cook’s Spot passed through several owners in the 1960s before ending up in the hands of Mrs. Osean McDonald in 1968. The restaurant closed in 1972. The sites of the Cook’s Spot, Dreamland and all the other businesses which once occupied the southeast quadrant of the Square stand vacant today awaiting development by Rhodes State College.
Reach Greg Hoersten at email@example.com.