Vanishing breed: The Ohio Theatre hits the century mark with a new lease on life
The Ohio Theatre has, at this point, been through so many owners that it sits in judgment of them.
Every owner is necessarily owned by the theatre in turn — weighed by the nearly 101-year-old history of its chalky Greek columns, the regal red of its deluxe brick facade, the weathered texture of its original wooden seats. To lay claim to being Toledo’s last neighborhood theater, the sole survivor of a generation that numbered dozens, is to invite comparison with custodians past. Are you worthy of the keepers of yesteryear?
The Children’s Theatre Workshop is the latest to join the ranks of responsibility. The youth theater group acquired the historic building in November, 2020, through a sale facilitated by the Lucas County Land Bank. The Ohio Theatre had been sitting empty for a year when CTW moved in from its old space at the Collingwood Arts Center.
“I was expecting something that was a lost cause,” said Aimee Reid, executive artistic director at CTW. “Instead I saw something that decades of stewards had taken care of.”
The Ohio Theatre’s list of stewards is quite extensive: the Lagrange Street Amusement Company when it opened in 1921, the Bialorucki family when it initially closed in 1974, and then everyone from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo to Ohio Theatre, Inc.
In that time, even as Toledo’s other neighborhood movie houses crumbled into history, the vaudeville-era building continued to house entertainment ranging from screening old Polish cartoons as part of the Lagrange Street Polish Festival, to hosting performances by the Toledo Symphony and the Toledo Ballet, to even providing a stage area for semi-professional wrestling shows. At one point it was rented out by the Democratic Party for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign.
Read more: Vanishing breed: The Ohio Theatre hits the century mark with a new lease on life