The building that is now the Ivoryton Playhouse was built in 1911 as a recreation hall for the employees of the Comstock-Cheney factory. In all likelihood, the building would have been demolished long ago but for its chance encounter with a remarkable man. Milton Stiefel started his long career in theater as an actor, playing with such famous personalities as Julia Marlow and Lionel Barrymore. Eventually, his career took him backstage and he became nationally known as ?The Assistant Director,? right hand man and confidante of David Belasco, considered by historians as one of the greatest directors in American theatre.
After Belasco?s death, Stiefel continued as a manager and stage director for many extravagant productions, which, as was the custom in those days, traveled nationally, and played in every major city in the United States. At the conclusion of one of those tours, Stiefel came to Essex in a severe state of exhaustion in order to rest and recuperate.