Earlier this week, Historic Indianapolis featured the Metropolitan Theater in “A Room with a View,” Metropolitan Hall: Indianapolis’ First Theater. The theater’s proprietor, Valentine Butsch, is a forebear of Historic Indianapolis’ own contributor, Sharon Butsch Freeland, and it is with her assistance that this week’s “Sunday Adverts” provides HI readers with a brief glimpse of the man who made such an impact on the Indianapolis theater community.
Valentine Butsch was born in Flömersheim, Rheinpfalz, Bavaria, Germany, on November 12, 1827. The Butsch family immigrated to New York City from the Port of Le Havre-de-Grace, France, arriving in the United States on June 22, 1840. Valentine, one of fourteen Butsch children, was twelve years old. The family then made its way to Indianapolis, arriving several weeks later, in August of 1840.
In his twenties, Valentine became very successful in the coal and lime business, solidifying a prominent place for his family in Indianapolis society. He spent time with other noteworthy Indianapolis residents, like Governor Oliver P. Morton and Thomas A. Hendricks, and he worked to support the advancement of the growing capital city. In 1856, Valentine, along with other parents in Indianapolis’ growing German community, formed the German-English Independent School. Valentine was the first president of the school. Well-known Indianapolis resident Clemens Vonnegut, owner of Vonnegut Hardware, was the school’s second president. The German-English Independent School was located on East Maryland Street and operated until 1882.
In August 1857, Valentine began construction of Metropolitan Hall, later known as the Metropolitan Theater, after recognizing Indianapolis’ need for an opera house. Construction of Metropolitan Hall was completed in September of 1858. Valentine first named the new building “Metropolitan Hall” because theaters were not readily accepted by many people, at that time. Since it was not advertised as a theater, Metropolitan Hall was also used for high school commencements, lodge meetings, ladies’ teas, and other such gatherings. About a decade later, Valentine renamed the building “Metropolitan Theater,” as indicated in this 1867 advertisement above.
As noted in this week’s Room with a View article, Valentine also constructed the Academy of Music in Indianapolis in 1868. Unfortunately, it burned only a few years later. Valentine was a very generous and resilient man. He sometimes invested in businesses that did not become as successful as others; however, he always bounced back. After an ill-advised investment in the glassworks industry, and the Long Depression of 1873, Valentine decided to move his family to Boulder, Colorado. Married to Lena Werneke in 1852, the Butsch family had grown to seven children. The oldest child, Emma, and her husband, James Dickson, stayed behind in Indianapolis, where James took over the management of the Metropolitan Theater. The Dickson family owned numerous theatres over the years.
After arriving in Boulder in 1878, Valentine held such community offices as deputy assessor, police magistrate, and justice of the peace. He was appointed the first postmaster of Boulder, Colorado, by then President Grover Cleveland, who reportedly named Valentine to the post at the suggestion of Valentine’s old friend from Indiana, then Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks. In 1892, Valentine and his son-in-law, Lucius C. Paddock, partnered to form the Daily Camera. Butsch and Paddock relatives remained involved in the newspaper until 1992. Valentine was the manager of the Daily Camera until he was stricken by illness in 1902. He suffered a stroke not long thereafter and passed away in Boulder on February 16, 1905, at the age of seventy-seven. He is buried in Boulder’s Green Mountain Cemetery, along with many Butsch and Paddock descendants.