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Refurbished Ohio Theatre reopens to new future

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa

North Toledo: The historic Ohio Theatre reopened to public performances May 2, 2013 with a school performance by the Toledo School of the Arts and on May 5th with a concert by various ensembles of the Toledo Symphony. But the former movie and vaudeville house will have a bit of a different future as a multi-purpose performance hall after completion of the first of three phases of renovations.

The theater, 3114 Lagrange St., reopened for the first time since 2009 with the Toledo School for the Arts’ Junior Division Dance Showcase. The Toledo Symphony Orchestra performance included their string quartet and both their brass and woodwind quintets.

Renovations include a new roof and heating, air conditioning system, as well as an expanded stage, new restrooms, and updates to the lighting at the North Toledo theatre, which is now owned by United North, a community development organization in ONE Village. The nonprofit has sought grant funding for years to pay for the renovations.

“We are thrilled to restore this historic jewel, provide entertainment to the community, and introduce youth to the arts in ONE Village,” said Terry Glazer, CEO of United North. “We believe the restoration of the Ohio Theatre is the catalyst for continued revitalization of our ONE Village neighborhood.”

Officials with the community development corporation have long seen the historic theatre as the centerpiece of revitalizing Polish International Village, even dubbing it “The Miracle of Lagrange Street.”

However, the long-familiar marquee in front of the building fell down some time ago and has not yet been replaced with signage, leaving it looking non-descript. But ONE Village officials wanted to let the community back into the theater as soon as possible.

Built in 1921, it is Toledo’s last operating neighborhood theater. During its heyday, the three-story brick and stone masonry building featured stadium seating, the original Mighty 90 carbon arc 35mm movie projectors, and a pipe organ originally installed in the razed Rivoli Theatre in downtown Toledo. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

For generations, the Ohio Theatre was home to vaudeville shows and silent films, movies and weekly serials, and even performing arts. The first event ever staged at the theatre was the Douglas Fairbanks film, The Mark of Zorro. When it opened, it was the largest neighborhood theatre in the country at the time.

There is $5 million worth of renovations planned. The Ohio Theatre will receive up to $2 million in state historic tax credits. The community development group hopes to raise an extra $2 million in private contributions. Every dollar raised will be matched by grant funding. The hope is to raise enough money to restore the theater to its original grandeur.

ONE Village spent $1 million-plus on the first phase of renovations, including work to   stabilize the interior with a new roof. A new HVAC system, bathrooms, and lighting were among the rest. The theater originally boasted 1,800 seats, but the renovated theater will be a bit more intimate.

Three rows of seating were taken out to make room for an expanded stage, reducing capacity from 960 seats to 724. That seating will be reduced even further to 425, when wider, more comfortable seats will be installed to replace the original theater seating. The theater once had 1,800 seats.

Another $1 million is expected to be spent restoring the facade. Lightning destroyed the 1950’s-era marquee in 2004.  Interior and exterior painting also remains to be completed, all of which is expected to be done over the next two years.

Neighborhood leaders expect to restore some of the children’s artistic programs that once were housed at the theatre. Other events in the works include: an Internet gaming seminar, a summer writing workshop for high school students, a Toledo Ballet workshop, and a fall series of artistic films.

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Ohio Theatre & Events Center, booking an event, or making a tax-deductible donation can contact Jamie Sampson, theatre manager, by emailing [email protected] or by calling 419.261.4088. 

Copyright © 1989 to 2013 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 05/07/13 19:49:32 -0700.




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