In the late 1890s, Walker began to swing away from classic production
in favor of more contemporary and thus more profitable plays.
On January 31, 1901, just fifteen minutes after the final curtain call
of Walker’s play Heart and Sword, the Coates Opera House in
Kansas City caught fire and burned to the ground. By the time the fire
had spread from the boiler room, the building had been evacuated,
forcing Walker’s company to abandon their theatrical gear to the flames.
Later, Walker signed with Shipman Brothers in New York, performing romantic
and classic plays under their banner until he was able to recoup his losses.
Walker’s first Broadway hit was in 1909, playing David opposite Chrystal Herne
in Israel Zangwill’s The Melting Pot. The play ran for 268 performances
at the Comedy Theatre on West 41st Street, and nearly as long a few years later,
when he reprieved his role at the Queen’s Theatre in London.
The Melting Pot / Grand Opera House / Chicago (1908)