In 1934, Epstein, like most companies, suffered from the economic turmoil of the Great Depression. Epstein founder Abraham Epstein had his staff working a quarter of the time, as he wanted to make sure he could leave everyone employed. But from what his son, Sidney Epstein, told our director of business development and marketing, Noel Abbott, this was not a long-term solution. In fact, layoffs and even a strong closure were distinct opportunities. However, on May 19, 1934, a fire broke out and burned a significant portion of the Stockyards, including its International Amphitheater, where the Famous Livestock Exhibition was held annually in front of thousands of people.
From what Sid described to Sid Noel, his father received a call from Union Stockyards while the fire was still burning, saying they needed his help rebuilding the Stockyards as well as the Amphitheater. However, the new 10,000-seat arena had to be designed, built, constructed, and ready for use by December 1, 1934, in just 196 days!
Sid, who was 11 at the time of the fire, said he had not seen his father for more than a week after that phone call. And, like, the entire Epstein staff was back full time and actually working all the time to meet the Stockyards’ ambitious (to say the least) schedule.
The images you see above show how incredible this reconstruction task and the Herculean effort of Epstein staff was. Photo in the upper left, taken on August 21strr, shows the installation of the first bodies of 200 steel Amphitheaters, which happened to be the world’s largest roofs of their kind at the time. The image directly below shows that a little less than 3 weeks later, all the damages were erected and the roof is being installed. And, the photo in the lower right corner, shows the opening night, December 1st, with a fully completed and busy International Amphitheater. Incredible 196 days from destruction to reincarnation!
Lastly, and most importantly, this fire kept the Epstein firm fully engaged in the reconstruction of dozens of facilities and locations for Union Stockholders over the following months and years, which really saved our firm; allowing us to not only resist the Great Depression, but, in a few months, reach 100th
Epstein staff responsible for handing over the International Amphitheater can be seen in the photo below:
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