This day in Toledo history: Iconic theater, Cedar Point owner shot in face by wife in downtown Toledo

This day in Toledo history: Iconic theater, Cedar Point owner shot in face by wife in downtown Toledo
(Source: WTOL)
(Source: WTOL)

(WTOL) - In downtown Toledo on this day in history, Frank Burt, the man who built the landmark Burt Theater on Jefferson Avenue, was shot and critically wounded on the sidewalk in front of the building by his irate wife.

Burt says she opened fire on him because she suspected he was having an affair with another woman after he had served her earlier that day with divorce papers.

The young Burt would later recover from his wounds, but the marriage didn't survive. However, Burt's marriage to his ambitions as a showman lived on for years.

At the time of the shooting he was listed in the papers as owning more than eight theaters around the country including the Lyceum Theater in Toledo, and other theaters in Ft. Wayne, Lima, Evansville, Youngstown and other cities in the area.

He was also a part owner of the Toledo Casino at Point Place and the newest amusement park on Lake Erie, called Cedar Point in Sandusky.

As for the Burt Theater in Toledo, he opened it in 1898 as a copy of a 15th century Venetian palace complete with a row of ornate gothic columns and balconies.

The 1565 seat theater also featured an extra wide row called a "fat man's row".

Patrons were offered a variety of daily shows of early vaudeville performances and melodramas, but like many "live" theaters of its era, the popularity was eclipsed by the growth of moving picture houses.

Frank Burt would suffer from painful injuries again in Toledo when he was trying to crank his automobile and it jumped into gear and pinned him against a light pole crushing his legs.

After healing and regaining his strength, Burt left Toledo and moved into new areas of theatrical interest to pursue greater achievements.

He was by most measure, a master showman and creative and enterprising amusement park manager and his reputation became legendary across the nation.

By 1912, he was managing the popular Lakeside Amusement Park in the bustling city of Denver, and a few years later, he began dividing his time between Denver and California when he took the role as concessions manager of the Pan American Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.

After the Exposition, Burt moved south to the coastal town of Seal Beach California where he developed and managed the Seal Beach Amusement Park, or "Joy Zone" in California which opened in 1916.

His colorful presence there left an indelible impression on the town he is remembered fondly by local historians.

One of his claims to fame was the promotion of dare-devil air stunts including wing walkers, and aerobatic performers.

Some of his projects still live to this day as a legacy to his talents and vision, Cedar Point, The Lakeside Amusement Park near Denver and the still standing theater building that bears his name in Toledo, the Burt Theater.

Frank Burt died in 1924.

The Burt Theater went through many iterations through the years; the Peppermint Lounge, the Country Palace, the Club and Caesar's Showbar are businesses that people might remember.

The building sits empty today and its ornate architectural features were most recently saved from demolition when it became a part of the Lucas County Land Bank in 2013.

It was a close call for Burt's Theater at Jefferson and Ontario, where 113 years ago on this date, the famed showman himself almost took his final bow.

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