Fellis Theatre of Hillsboro

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

Fellis Theatre of Hillsboro
Fellis Theatre of Hillsboro

425 S. Main Street Hillsboro, IL 62049

Lots 18 & 19 of Central Addition

Do you remember when the Keystone Kops played at Fellis Theater when it was located in what is now the south room of Traylor's Furniture store on South Main Street in Hillsboro?

If you do your memory goes back 60 years or more for the building was built for a theater in about 1914 by Ed Fellis, Sr. The arched entranceway was set back from the sidewalk with the box office in the center and entrance and exit doors on each side.

A Keystone comedy was playing the night the picture of the theater and what became known as the Hamilton Hotel building was taken.

For a decade such silent movie greats as Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., Charlie Chaplin, William S. Hart and Theda Bara drew crowds to the white front theater.

Vaudeville acts and productions presented by traveling stock companies added to the entertainment provided there. Early movie serials, shown in weekly installments, also swelled box office receipts.

Among the serials shown there was "The Million Dollar Mystery" which was released back in 1915. Movie goers had to attend the old Colonial Theater, located in the Bremer building, to see the thrilling installments of "The Perils of Pauline, " starring Pearl White."

Back in 1907 the first " nickelodeon" was opened on the second floor of the Sawyer building in which the Ben Franklin store is now located. Two years later Mr. Fellis, a glass blower by trade who had moved to Schram City after the glass factory was established, purchased the "nickelodeon." For the rest of his life, he was a theater operator here.

1910 Advertisement for Opera House Theatre
1910 Advertisement for Opera House Theatre

In 1910 Mr. Fellis went into partnership with. the late Ted Hill and established the "electric theater" on the second floor of the old Opera House. There Fellis and Hill advertised "Good electric moving pictures shown every weeknight, plus excellent vaudeville attractions." Admission was 10 cents.

Ed Fellis also operated a theatre in Schram City.
Ed Fellis also operated a theatre in Schram City.

After Jack Johnson became the first black man to win the heavyweight boxing championship by defeating James J. Jeffries in Reno, Nevada, on July 4, 1910, movies of the fight were shown at the Opera House theater. Admission was increased to 25 cents for the fight pictures.

Mr. Fellis later purchased Mr. Hill's interest in the theater and in 1913 leased the lot on which the present Orpheum Theater is located and established the Hillsboro Airdome, an open-air theater where movies were shown, and plays were presented by stock companies during the summer months.

Two other theaters were also opened in 1913. S. E. Hurst, an assistant railroad ticket agent, opened The Gem in the Bremer building and Dr. Fred Rogers opened the Grand Central Airdome on the vacant lot south of the Hamilton Hotel building where Mr. Fellis would later build his theater.

On opening night of the Grand Central Airdome, 600 people gathered under the stars to see a three-reel movie and a two-act comedy by players with the Stern-Carr Stock Company.

Dr. Rogers sold the Grand Central Airdome to Mr. Hurst, operator of The Gem, and Mr. Hurst then sold it to Mr. Fellis. Mr. Hurst later sold The Gem to Walter "Scotty" Palmer, who changed the name of the theater to The Colonial.

For 10 years or more Mr. Fellis operated the theater in the building he had built. In the early 1920's after the present Orpheum theater was built by Jack Williams of Panama Mr. Fellis purchased the Orpheum and closed his theater and sold the building to Fred W. Welge, Hillsboro furniture dealer.

Mr. Welge was operating his furniture store next door to the Fellis theater when this picture was taken. The post office was located in the building next to the furniture store. For nearly 60 years furniture has been sold in the building which was erected for a theater.

Mr. Welge and members of his family were the first to sell furniture there. Later Mr. and Mrs. H. Clay Latham became owners of the business, which was then, operated by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Tobias before they retired. Don Traylor moved his furniture store there more than 10 years ago.

Source: The Montgomery News

By: Tom Bliss

The former The Fellis Theatre at Hillsboro
The former The Fellis Theatre at Hillsboro
The Fellis Theatre at Hillsboro
The Fellis Theatre at Hillsboro

The Fellis Theatre at Hillsboro

Friday May 21, 1915

The above picture is the first that has ever been taken of the Fellis Theatre in this city, a playhouse which is modern in every respect. The building is owned by Ed Fellis, the well known theatre man. It was constructed by Jas. T. Morgan contractor of this city, and the plans were drawn by A.B. Frankel, the well known architect on East St. Louis, who designed many of the principal buildings of Hillsboro.

Welge Furniture Store Hillsboro Illinois
Welge Furniture Store Hillsboro Illinois

Welge Furniture

About 11 years after the Fellis Theatre opened, Fellis purchased the Orpheum Theatre and sold 425 S. Main to Fred Welge who relocated his furniture store here from the adjacent storefront to the North 423 S. Main.

Welge also operated the Welge Chapel Funeral Home next door at 431 S. Main Street.

Welge Chapel Funeral Home
Welge Chapel Funeral Home

Businesses at 425 S Main Street:

Formerly: Fellis Theatre

Formerly: Welge Furniture Store

Formerly: Latham Furniture

Formerly: Traylor Furniture

Formerly: Creative Choices - Scrapbooking Supplies (2005)

Formerly: Body Basics - Massage Therapy (2006)

Formerly: In His Image Photography (2010)

Formerly: The Dressing Room (2010)

Formerly: Smoke & Vape Shop (2014)

Currently: Gold Mine Gaming

394 views0 comments

Related Posts

See All