Cleveland – March 2018 – Playhouse Square Theaters

The Playhouse Square Theater District on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland is known as the 2nd largest by number of seats in the United States, behind Lincoln Center in Manhattan. The 4 major theaters once could seat nearly 10,000 people, although that number has diminished a bit with remodeling.

On the first Saturday of each month a small army of volunteers offer free behind the scenes tours. Lead by our amazing tour guide Lil, we were fortunate in that we chose a day that they were between shows in the theaters, so we were able to go on the stages and in the dressing rooms for all the theaters.

First up is the largest, the State Theater.  Opened, along with all the other theaters, in a 19 month period between 1921-1922, the State originally seated 3,400.

Built in an Italian Renaissance style for vaudeville shows and movies, it has what was the worlds longest lobby at 320′ as it was built at the back of the lot so the theater next door, the Ohio Theater, could also have frontage on Euclid Avenue.

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As the tour took us backstage you got a feel for how massive the stage and the rigging are to support the theater. This theater’s rigging have been modernized, we would later get a sense for how much compared to the non-updated ones.

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Next door is the Palace Theater (recently renamed Connor Palace to honor a major donor). This theater was built in the French Renaissance style, and features beautiful entry doors.

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The main lobby is known as the Great Hall. Amazingly in the early 1970s all the theaters we close to being torn down to make parking lots, but fortunately the local arts community was persistent and saved all of them. It  has taken the community many years and millions of dollars but all have been restored, and in some cases reconfigured for smaller theaters.

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Front the balcony of the Palace we were treated to a performance from one of the resident organists.

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Later we were able to visit up close for a demonstration of the amazing capabilities of the organ, as well as some behind the scenes history of the recovery and restoration of the organ.

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The entryway to the Ohio Theater features an amazing ceiling. (all of the ceilings are stunning, this is the best).

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From the stage the lighting, seating and ceiling make an impressive photo.

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Backstage gets a view of the un-restored rigging (the massive collection of ropes on the right), as well as all of the lighting riggings.

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Another amazing ceiling and light, the entrance to the Allen Theater.

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The columns of the Allen Theater entrance have intricate carvings.

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The Allen has been downsized and modernized, although the original balconies and boxes are hidden behind the fabrics on the sides in case they want to return it to it’s original state. The second half of this theater has been transformed into a ‘Theater in the Round’ format.

Playhouse Square is one of the best features of Cleveland, and the Saturday morning tours are amazing (and free).

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Columbus – July 2017 – The Ohio Theater

The Ohio Theater is a grand old theater downtown that was built in 1928 in an exceptionally ornate style to ‘separate the patrons from their everyday life’; it was originally built as a movie theater. It currently has seating for over 2700 people in the main level and the balcony, and features a massive ‘Robert-Morton’ organ.


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While the theater hosts the symphony, opera and ballet we were there for a screening of the movie classic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. The screen is massive, and the sound quality was superb.

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The impressive ceiling has a more impressive chandelier.

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The lobbies are equally ornate.

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We chose a seat in the balcony.

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The loges are no longer used for seating, rather they serve as lighting structures.

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The maestro served as the organist, performing for 30 minutes prior to the movie, during intermission, and during the exit period after the movie. A visit to the Ohio Theater is worth it just to see the building; to see a classic old movie is even better.

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Columbus – May 2017 – Historical Markers

The Ohio History Center has arranged for over 1,500 Historical Markers to be erected throughout the state, with over 100 in Franklin County (Columbus) alone. Each of these markers provides a snippet of information about a person, place or activity that took place on or near the marker.

We spent the day wandering around looking for a few that were associated with structures of interest. In the end we visited 12 unique locations.

The text for each photo is the transcription from the marker (thank you Ohio History Center for the signs!)

Worthington Masonic Museum

Worthington was the center of Masonry for the central Ohio area in the early years of the nineteenth century. New England Lodge, with its original charter from the Grand Lodge of Connecticut dated 1803, is the oldest lodge in continuous existence in Ohio. This building, erected in 1820, is the oldest Masonic Temple west of the Allegheny Mountains.

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Groveport Log Home

Built on Main Street, circa 1815, this two story log residence was later sided. In 1974 during new post office site preparation, the log structure was discovered and moved to present location along Ohio-Erie Canal route. In adjoining Groveport Cemetery a monument honors local resident, John S. Rarey (1828-1866), internationally known horse trainer and owner of famous horse, Cruiser.


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Canal Winchester Covered Bridge

In March, 1887, the Franklin County Commissioners announced the building of a bridge in Madison Township over Little Walnut Creek at Kramer’s Ford. Area citizens had petitioned for a bridge to transport agricultural products to the canal and railroad. Michael Corbett of Groveport contracted to construct the abutments and the Columbus Bridge Company built the covered bridge for $2,690.00. Reuban L. Partridge, company vice president, supervised the building, using his patented truss system consisting of double and triple truss members constructed of pine and oak. Back Text: In the 1930’s the road traveling over the bridge became State Route 674 and in the 1950s the road was redirected to bypass the covered bridge. In 1990, the county contracted with Abba Lichtenstein & Associates to evaluate the condition of the bridge. The W.J. Seidensticker Company repaired and restored the Bergstresser bridge using original and new materials. This, the last covered bridge in Franklin County, was rededicated September 1, 1991. At this time the ownership of the bridge was transferred to the Village of Canal Winchester.


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Grandview Heights – The Bank Block

Built by pioneering retail developer Don Monroe Casto Sr., the Bank Block was dedicated in 1928. Considered one of the earliest regional shopping centers in the United States, it innovatively featured 350 free parking spaces-complete with uniformed attendant-to accommodate the rapidly growing numbers of automobile-owning suburbanites. The Bank Block’s first tenants included several competing national grocers (Kroger, A&P, and Piggly Wiggly), the First Citizens Trust (later Ohio National Bank), a stationer, barber shop, and pharmacy. It remains the nucleus of Grandview’s commercial district. Casto, once described as “the man who changed the shopping habits of the free world,” also built the Town and Country Shopping Center in Whitehall and was a dominant figure in retail commercial development in the Midwest for much of the 20th century.

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Worthington – Orange Johnson House

The original pioneer structure of this house was built by Arora Buttles in 1811. It was purchased by Orange and Achsa Johnson in 1816. Orange Johnson came from Connecticut as a comb maker; he became a farmer, landowner, turnpike commissioner, paymaster for the militia, banker, and railroad stockholder. In 1819 the Federal style addition was constructed on the west side of the pioneer house, and the Johnsons continued to live here until 1863. Restored and owned by the Worthington Historical Society.


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Columbus – Original Airport Terminal

The original Port Columbus Airport terminal was founded by the people of Columbus and was one of the first airport facilities in the United States. Dedicated on July 8, 1929, Port Columbus was the first transfer point in the westbound transcontinental passenger service, which was operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT), and the Santa Fe Railway. Its first passengers departed by rail from New York City on July 7, 1929, and boarded TAT Ford Tri-Motor aircraft at Port Columbus to fly to Waynoka, Oklahoma, the following day. They then traveled by rail to Clovis, New Mexico, and completed their journey with a TAT flight to Los Angeles. The scheduled 48-hour trip was celebrated in Columbus, marking the beginning milestone of national airport travel. (continued on other side) Back Text: (continued from other side) With the nation sinking into the Great Depression, the national air travel venture at Port Columbus was not profitable enough. As a result, the scheduled train-plane operation was suspended and replaced with coast-to-coast air service in 1930. The arrival of mail service at the airport in 1930 helped, as did a huge contract with the Curtiss-Wright Corporation in 1940. Curtiss-Wright leased 83 acres of airport property to produce 6,000 planes, including the SB2C Helldiver and SO3C-1 Seagull aircraft. The federal government took over airport operations in 1941. In 1942 a Naval Air Facility was established adding several new buildings and lengthening runways. This building served as the passenger terminal until the present terminal opened on September 21, 1958.


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Columbus – Lincoln Theater

The Lincoln Theatre, originally known as Ogden Theatre Lodge, opened on Thanksgiving Day in 1929. Developer Al Jackson was spurred to build the theatre because African-Americans were segregated from the other area theatres. Among the bands that have played at the Lincoln was the Eckstine Band, which launched the careers of a number of legendary jazz stars such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Sarah Vaughn. The Lincoln Theatre retained a high level of integrity during a period of unequaled African-American cultural, social, and economic strength in Columbus.


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Columbus – Toledo and Ohio Central Railroad Station

The only remaining Columbus railroad station, The Toledo & Ohio Central (T&OC) Railroad Station was constructed in 1895 and was the departure point for William McKinley when he left for Washington D.C to be sworn in as president. Designed by noted Columbus architects Joseph Warren Yost & Frank L. Packard, the pagoda style roof and tower have become Columbus icons. By 1900, the T&OC was purchased by the rival Hocking Valley Railroad and in 1911 the tracks were elevated above Broad Street. Later the New York Central Railroad gained control and used the station until 1930 when passenger service was transferred to Union Station in Columbus. Restored after the 1913 Flood and major fires in 1910 and 1975, the station was headquarters for the Central Ohio Volunteers of American from 1930 to 2003. The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. Back Text: The Macklin Hotel was constructed prior to 1895 and predates the Toledo & Ohio Central Railroad Station. It was located adjacent to the station and had three towers and a pagoda style roof matching the depot. The Macklin Hotel was located at 387 W. Broad St. in front of the crystal ice plant which supplied ice to the railroads prior to refrigeration. After the hotel closed, the building was used for several restaurants and cafes until its demolition in 1955.


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Grove City – Beulah Park Race Track (Abandonded and mostly demolished)

The origin of Beulah Park Race Track began in 1889 when local businessman A. G. Grant petitioned the village of Grove City to create the Beulah Addition housing development on farmland once owned by town founder William Foster Breck. Grant named the new addition, located west of Harrisburg Pike, in honor of his daughter, Beulah. Grant, whose grandparents ?Hugh and Catherine Grant? were Jackson Township’s first settlers in 1803, added a recreational park to the development to attract potential buyers. The beautifully wooded park attracted visitors who enjoyed picnics, concerts, speeches, and baseball games there. Soon the park was expanded to include a small racetrack on the grounds. Back Text: The new track grabbed the attention of Franklin County Fair officials who held the fair on the site intermittently until 1918 when it was relocated to Hilliard. Shortly thereafter, Colonel James M. Westwater purchased the grounds and added improvements. In 1922, Westwater sold his interest to the Capital City Racing Association and, in 1923, the Association founded Beulah Park ?Ohio’s first Thoroughbred racetrack. The main entrance of the park was located on Grant Avenue, a street named in honor of Jackson Township’s first settlers. In 1931, pari-mutuel wagering commenced under the supervision of the Ohio Racing Commission. In 1983, Beulah Park was the first track in Ohio to offer simulcast wagering on the Kentucky Derby.


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One interesting building we came across that did not have a historical marker was the Wagnalls Library in the small town of Lithopolis. This library is a result of Mabel Wagnalls Jones, who was the daughter of Adam Wagnalls, a co-founder of the Funk & Wagnalls Publishing Company.

Built in 1925 it has graced this small town for nearly a century.


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While we were in Canal Winchester looking for an Interurban station we came across their Main rail station, along with a couple of restored cabooses. We never did find the Interurban station.

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