Side A: Clyde Shyrigh, better known as Billy Clifford, was born in this house on January 24, 1869, to Levi and Sarah Shyrigh. Coming from a musical family, he developed an early interest in music and practiced with the family in the barn behind the house. At the age of ten, Clifford joined the circus when it was in town and played the snare drum, sold tickets, and eventually performed a song and dance routine. A leading vaudevillian of his time, Clifford once performed with Buster Keaton and went on to act with the best troupes in New York City, Baltimore, Norfolk, Richmond, and Europe. Eventually, he created his own company of performers, including an all-girl orchestra. Clifford died in this house on November 20, 1930, and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Urbana.
Side B: In 1905, Billy Clifford built the Clifford Theater, now the Urbana Cinema, on the spot where his family’s barn stood on South Main Street. That was the same year motion pictures were first shown in Urbana. Built at a cost of $75,000, the theater was the first building in Urbana constructed solely for theatrical purposes. The ground level was large with an eighty-foot stage; the theater held an audience of 700. The building had three floors each with separate exit doors. While visiting Columbus and Dayton, Clifford and his troupe traveled to Urbana using Clifford’s private railcar. A separate railcar transported the scenery and baggage. In addition to Clifford and his troupe, the theater hosted performances by such noted entertainers as John Philip Sousa and his band. Fire destroyed the Clifford Theater years later, taking with it most of Clifford’s personal belongings.
Sponsors: The Charles Mott Family and Friends, Champaign County Bicentennial Historical Marker Committee, and The Ohio Historical Society