ST. MARYS — A group has been formed to raise money to renovate the St. Marys Theater and Grand Opera House in the 100 block of West Spring Street.
“As of July 30th at a little past 4 p.m., the recently formed non-profit organization, the Friends of St. Marys Theater & Grand Opera House, Inc., purchased, with the assistance of People’s Bank, this grand, iconic and majestic building — a piece of St. Marians hearts and memories since 1895 but closed off to our town for around a decade,” said Doug Spencer, organizer of the effort to restore the building.
Organizers are hoping to raise enough money to restore the local landmark into a “vibrant performing arts center” prior to the city’s bicentennial celebration in 2023.
“Our vision is to provide our youth and adults a myriad of entertainment options in this multi-entertainment venue such as classic and second-run movies, themed movie events — Christmas movies, Halloween movies, silent movies with the music provided by local musicians, music concerts of all genres, comedians, lectures, dinner theater, etc. The Grand Ballroom will also be host to receptions, corporate events, Christmas parties, family and class reunions, etc. These are Grand plans for a Grand building,” Spencer said.
Spencer says they are still in the process of estimating the cost of the renovations which could reach more than $3 million.
“Experts locally and from abroad, under the guidance of our consultant, Michael Hurwitz, will evaluate the building and provide cost expectations. Cotterman & Company has been engaged to repair the U-shaped flat roof. Our expectation is that work will be completed before November. We know there will have to be HVAC, electrical, plumbing upgrades, an elevator to the ballroom as well as cosmetic enhancements. To be able to show movies once again, movie and sound equipment will need to be procured as well as upgrades to the stage rigging system,” Spencer said.
Michael Hurwitz, founder of Historic Opera Houses from Columbus is acting as a consultant on the project and believes the property can be saved.
“I walked in here and on a scale of one to ten, this is a seven. The stewardship on the property from the previous owner was solid. The roof wasn’t falling in. There weren’t any birds nesting in the theater and it’s doable. The team that’s been put together is exceptional and that’s what it takes,” Hurwitz said.
The organization is still awaiting approval of their non-profit 501c3 application but that hasn’t stopped them from asking for donations.
Those who give $200 will be part of the Bicentennial Club.
Those who donate $1823 will be in the 1823 Club. 1823 marks the year St. Marys was founded.
If you give $2023 you’ll be in the 2023 Club, which marks when St. Marys will celebrate its bicentennial.
If you donate higher amounts like $10,000 or $25,000 you’ll get recognition on a new sidewalk.
Ellen Hunter, owner of Audiology Associates committed $50,000 toward the project.
To donate you can go to their website at grandoperahouselive.com or contributions can be made to the St. Marys Community Foundation and mailed to 206 E. Spring St., St. Marys or dropped off at that location.
“If you’re not worried about the tax deduction paperwork, feel free to send a check made out to the Friends of St. Marys Theater and Grand Opera House and mail to P.O. Box 382, St. Marys, Ohio 45885,” Spencer said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.