June 12, 2015

It Happened on June 12th

New Richmond Tornado, 1899

This is what was left of the Methodist Church.
It had been a particularly hard winter. Snow had been so deep that winter that sleighs could travel on crusted snow heaped far over the tops of the fences. Temperatures had reached 60 degrees below zero. The citizens of New Richmond, Wisconsin were ready for a change of weather.

And it seemed that they had one. June 12 started out as a beautiful June Monday. School had let out the preceding Thursday and the circus had come to town. Spirits were high.

As the day wore on, it grew uncomfortably hot. The circus wrapped up its performance for the day at about 4:30, which was fortunate, because a heavy rain, and some hail, began to fall.

About 15 miles southwest of town, a waterspout had formed on Lake St. Croix. It turned into a tornado and headed straight for New Richmond.

The tornado was only visible to New Richmond a few minutes before it reached town, so there was little warning. It cut a swath down the center of town about 1000 feet wide and 3000 feet long. The streets were filled with people -- it was about 6:00 pm and folks were going back to their homes. Besides that, the circus had brought another 1000 people to New Richmond.

Some made it into storm cellars, but that wasn't always enough. The tornado lifted buildings right off their foundations and hurled the bricks back down on people huddling in the cellars. Some were caught out in the open. Fires broke out everywhere. The black cloud contained flashing lightning, and there were those who thought it was the end of the world.

No sooner was the tornado gone than folks began to dig out the survivors. But then another wind attacked from the northwest, and people headed back for the cellars. There was no tornado that time, but strong winds that lasted for over an hour.

The fires were difficult to control since fire engines, hydrants, and wells had been demolished in the storm. The search for the missing continued, lit primarily by the light of those fires -- naturally, the electric plant was gone. There were few medical supplies. The four drugstores and four doctors' offices had either been destroyed or were stripped of their contents. Some of the injured and unconscious had been robbed by their neighbors.

A temporary hospital was set up at the Congregational Church and the local school, both of which were damaged but still standing. The Catholic Church served as a mortuary. Messengers had been sent out to nearby towns, and a relief train, filled with volunteers and supplies, arrived shortly after midnight. Food, money, and supplies were donated by people from all over Wisconsin and Minnesota. Fire equipment was rushed in from St. Paul. The militia was dispatched to guard the town and the citizens.

A total of 117 people were killed in the tornado, and another 200 were injured, making this the ninth highest death toll for any US tornado in history.

Shakespeare's Globe Theater Opens, 1997

Shakespeare's Globe today.  ©Gary Reggae/Wikimedia Commons
This wasn't the original Globe, of course, but it was as close as they could make it. The original Globe -- the one Shakespeare was acquainted with -- had been built in 1599 and destroyed by a fire in 1613. The fire was caused by a theatrical canon used during a performance of Henry the Eighth. It had misfired and ignited the thatch and beams.

The next incarnation was the second Globe, built in 1614 (the year following the fire) and closed by the Puritans in 1642. It was pulled down in, probably, 1644.

The (second) original Globe, as seen in 1642.
The current theater, known as Shakespeare's Globe, is based primarily on what we know about the 1614 Globe, since there is more information available on it than on the original. It was the project of actor/director Sam Wanamaker, who had been working on it for some time. In 1970 he founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust and International Shakespeare Globe Centre. The idea was to build a reconstruction as close as possible to the original design, and in a location as close as possible to the original.

The new theater is only about 750 feet from the original location. It has a thrust stage and three tiers of seating. The stage and seating areas are roofed, but the rest of the theater is uncovered. Obviously, plays are presented there only during the summer.

©Oosoom/Wikimedia Commons
Performances are also as close to authentic as possible. There are no spotlights, microphones, or amplification. Plays are held either during daylight hours, or a night with the use of floodlights -- which means the audience and the players can see each other. The theater will seat 857, and has room for another 700 "groundlings" in the pit, making up an audience about half as big as one typical in Shakespeare's time.

One remarkable feature of the new Globe is its thatched roof, complete with a sprinkler system and saturated with fire retardants. What makes it remarkable is that it is the only thatched roof that has been allowed in London since the Great Fire of 1666.

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