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George Broadhurst


Since its opening in 1917, the Broadhurst Theatre has housed some of the most popular plays and musicals in New York. The theater’s namesake, George H. Broadhurst had proven himself a successful writer and director with works like ‘Mills of the Gods’ and ‘Man of the Hour,’ a play starring Douglas Fairbanks that ran for nearly 500 performances. The Schubert Brothers, who owned the largest theater company in the United States, built a theater for Broadhurst to feature his own productions. But the New York theater is not the only one that he helped establish. Half-way across the country stands the Metropolitan Opera House in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

George Howells Broadhurst, born on this day in 1866 in Walsall, England, was expected to enter the priesthood. That came to an abrupt end at the age of 16. He recounted the story in a 1906 interview for the New York Times. “I once won a prize for theology and knowledge of the Prayer Book against three thousand competitors…When I won that prize I was the youngest boy who had ever committed such an offense so the Bishop of Litchfield invited me to dine with him...”

“At the table,” Broadhurst continued, “he said that he hoped I might some day occupy his chair. That remark was the turning point of my life…I made up my mind I would do nothing of the sort.” Selling his prize, along with some athletic medals from school, he ran away to America. “Like most Englishmen,” Broadhurst explained, “I wanted to reach Chicago, where I almost expected to pick up gold in the streets.”

He soon found a position in the Board of Trade, and within a few years, his double-entry bookkeeping had so impressed the firm for which he was employed, that he was sent to examine the books of the Baltimore Academy of Music. “That,” he explained, “was how I entered the theatrical business—from the front of the house.”

From Baltimore, the English-native moved to the Lyceum in Minneapolis. There he met George Batchelder. Overseeing the investments of a relative, a Boston banker, Batchelder had been sent out West to look after the business. His headquarters were in Grand Forks. As Broadhurst recalled, Batchelder didn’t know what to do with himself in a town that had only a few thousand people and where “a five-story building was the only substitute for a sky-scraper—so he decided to build a theater.”

Batchelder invited George Broadhurst to Grand Forks to open the new theater and since he had some experience with the Minneapolis Times, he was also offered the position of editor of the morning paper. Broadhurst accepted both. He oversaw the grand opening of the Metropolitan Opera House in November of 1890, but after a year, he left North Dakota, headed for San Francisco and eventually New York.

Written by Christina Sunwall


Eriksmoen, Curt. Did You Know That...?: 47 Fascinating Stories About People Who Have Lived in North Dakota. Vol. 1. McCleery & Sons Publishing, 2006.

"George Broadhurst Narrates Some Strange Experiences." The New York Times, December 16, 1906.