Sunday, September 26, 2010

Charles C. Hildinger Obituary

Charles C. Hildinger, the prominent businessman and theater magnate who I discussed in my previous post, was my husband's great-uncle.  One would think, with his amazing accomplishments from farm boy to rich man,  he would have been discussed by my father-in-law with his children, but as with his other ancestors, they have up until now, no knowledge.  I have found probably one hundred news articles which substantiate his rags to riches story, and his obituary which was on the front page of the Trenton Evening Times on September 3, 1931 confirms his status in the theater industry and Trenton/Mercer County community.


Prominent Figure in Trenton Amusement Fields Dies At 54

Charles C. Hildinger, 54 years old, well known owner of several amusement ventures in the city and elsewhere and president of the Mercer County Board of Taxation, will be buried from his late home, 614 West State Street, Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock.  Following services interment will be in Ewing Church Cemetery under direction of F. J. Ullrich & Sons, Inc.

Mr. Hildinger died yesterday afternoon at Mercer Hospital.  He had suffered an acute heart attack at his summer home in Belmar, the day before, his condition growing so serious that he was ordered brought to the Trenton institution about 2 a.m. yesterday.  He regained consciousness for about five hours prior to his death. 

Mrs. Hildinger and Lee Newbury, of Belmar, his partner in theatrical enterprises, accompanied him to Trenton from the shore city.

Mr. Hildinger is survived by his widow, a son, Clark and daughter, Claire.  They reside at the West State Street home.  He leaves also three sisters, Mrs. Frank J. Ullrich, Mrs. David C. Johnston and Mrs. Paul Sweet, all of this city; three nieces, Mrs. John Nicholathwaite, of Portsmouth, Ohio; Miss Daisy Cochrane of Washington, D.C. and Mrs. Walter Stevens, also of Washington, and one nephew Charles Sweet, of this city.

He was a member of True Craftsman Lodge, F. & A.; Scottish Rite, Three Times Three Chapter and Crescent Temple, Mystic Shire.  He belonged also to Trenton Lodge of Moose.  He was also a member of the Trenton Republican Club, of the Belmar Betterment League and the Allied Motion Picture Theatre Association.

Mr. Hildinger’s early life had many of the story-book qualities that fired the imagination of the youth of a generation ago.  Born on a farm in Armstrong County, Pa., where he remained until he was 14 years old, he soon set out for wider opportunities, and when he was still a young man, he was making the most of his chances in Pittsburgh.  His small business adventure subsequently took him to many small towns and eventually to this city.

Interested in newspapers, he obtained a position as circulation solicitor of the Trenton Times.  Two years later he started here what is believed to have been the first motion picture house east of Pittsburgh. 
It was while visiting in Pittsburgh that the film theatre idea came to him.  He perched himself on a curb and watched 300 persons enter a theatre.  Financially inclined, Hildinger figured the proceeds which the management received.

He returned to Trenton and the “Bijou” was the result.  It was opened at 28 North Warren Street, on July 12, 1906.  The “Bijou” was an immediate success and Hildinger and his brother-in-law, Charles C. Cutler, formed the Dream Amusement Company.

Within ten, years, Hildinger owned eight show houses here.  One of them was the “Nicolet,” located at 134 south Broad Street and housing 221 persons.  Coming to Trenton without a nickel, Hildinger was soon dubbed the “Five Cent King of Trenton.”  And he often admitted he was proud of the title.

                Headed String of Theatres

Mr. Hildinger’s string of movie houses later included the Bijou on Chestnut Avenue, Princess on North Clinton Avenue, Victory on South Broad Street, Rialto on Pennington Avenue, American on Princeton Avenue, Strand on Hermitage Avenue, and Garden on North Broad Street.  He also had an interest in the Greenwood and City Square theatres.  In each of these enterprises he was aided by financially interested associates.

Nearly twenty years ago Mr. Hildinger organized the Hildinger Booking Company, which became a clearing house for films for his own and other local theatres.  While engaged in this business he became associated with the late Milton Hirshfield and, with the latter acquired the Stacy Theatre on East State Street, of which he was the active head at the time of his death.

                Also Had Interests at Shore

With Mr. Hirshfeld, he became a leading member of the group that four years ago was organized to erect the Lincoln Theatre.  Throughout the course of construction of this playhouse, Mr. Hildinger was continually on the job as a building supervisor.  Upon its completion, be became vice president of the enterprise and, at the death of Mr. Hirshfeld and until the sale of the house to the RKO interests, he was the active head in the operation of the Lincoln.

For the past ten year Mr. Hildinger had resided throughout the summer at Belmar, where he also had extensive amusement holdings.  He was affiliated with two theatres and an amusement pier there and with the Ocean Theatre in Asbury Park.

He was also actively identified with Woodlawn Park and formerly conducted the Arcade billiard parlors on East State Street, between Broad and Warren.

Back in 1927 Mr. Hildinger was named treasurer of the New Jersey Motion Picture Owners; Association during their annual convention in Asbury Park.  He also was vice president of the Southern New Jersey branch of the association at one time.

Source:  Trenton Evening Times
Date:  Thursday, 3 Sep 1931

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