Ohio Theater

130 South State Street,
Marion, OH 43302

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The Grand Opera House was operating prior to 1897, and in 1910 it suffered a fire. By 1941 it had been renamed Ohio Theater, and continued until at least 1950.

Contributed by Lost Memory

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 16, 2010 at 3:12 am

In the photos linked above, the letters are mostly hidden by the theater’s name on the newer marquee, but the building has the name Grand Opera House in what is probably terra cotta above the theater entrance. Marion’s original Grand Opera House was gutted by a fire on December 6, 1910, and the roof collapsed, as can be seen in this photo at the Gen Disasters web site.

A 1910, pre-fire postcard view (unlinked as it’s at an unstable e-Bay URL) shows that most of the original facade of the Grand Opera House survived. Other than the loss of an ornate cornice, parapet, and pediment, and the ground floor detail that was covered up or removed in a later remodeling, it is still substantially the same facade today. The Grand Opera House was rebuilt at the same time that a new Elks Lodge was built on an adjacent lot. Here is a paragraph from a history of the Marion Elks Lodge (that page includes a small photo showing part of the original marquee of the theater) on the BPOE web site:

“In 1910, the Grand Opera House on South State Street suffered a major fire. As Marion Lodge 32 had previously purchased the adjacent lot, it was decided to purchase the burned theater building, renovate it, and erect a new building beside it to house business rental properties on the first floor, a Club Room on the second floor, and a Lodge Room on the third floor. This, the current home of the Marion Elks Lodge 32, was completed in 1914 at a cost of $60,000.”
This page at the Marion Elks Lodge web site has a photo of the Lodge building and the adjacent theater building, and a link to another more recent photo showing the theater without the Ohio marquee. The theater entrance has been closed in. None of the web sites say what the auditorium is being used for, or whether or not it is even intact.

The part of the Elks' project that included the theater is probably the one listed in the construction news section of the August, 1912, issue of The Lather, the trade journal of the Wood, Wire, and Metal Lathers' International Union. The item reads: “Marion, O.— Store, Theatre and Lodge Hall. $35,000. Archt., Frank L. Packard, 1212 New Haydn Bldg., Columbus, O.”

If this theater was indeed designed by Frank Packard, it would be a good candidate for inclusion on the NRHP. Not only does the building appear to be in good condition, but Packard was probably Ohio’s leading architect in his day. Here’s a web page with photos of some of his other buildings (scroll down for photos— no theaters among them that I can see.) Click on Packard’s photo near the top of the page to read a brief biography.

The surviving pre-fire facade would have to be attributed to the original architect, of course, who might or might not have been Packard himself. I’ve been unable to discover when the building was built, but the Grand Opera House was listed in the 1897-1898 issue of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide. Packard began practicing in Columbus in 1892, originally in partnership with Joseph W. Yost, who had practiced in Columbus since 1882. Packard became sole owner of the firm in 1899.

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