Built by John “Wall” Mulliken of Walker and Mulliken Furniture Store, The Walker Opera House was one of Champaign’s first theaters. Unlike most of the Vaudeville houses built before it, the Walker was a theater in the true sense with a large stage and theater seating.
An article on the November 1, 1893 the Daily Gazette talks about the show “A Railroad Ticket” in which a fake rain machine was used as well as a real streetcar on stage. However, claims also paint a picture of the house where temperatures were so unbearable that each year the theater would close in July and August. The Walker was eventually demolished and in it’s place stood the Hamilton Hotel until a fire destroyed the building in 1977.
One interesting item to note regarding theaters was that until 1928 there was a city ordinance in place strictly prohibiting and kind of theater shows on Sunday. It is also said that early theater in this college town wasn’t easy to pull of. News of students burning lobby furniture in the streets, breaking windows, and tossing tomatoes was rumored. One story accounts that a woman singing on the Orpheum stage was abruptly interrupted by 100 alarm clocks going off at once in yet another student antic.