Garrettsville – Garrettsville Village Council wrestled with the pros and cons of either demolishing or repairing the Irwin Hardware Building, with several members initially hesitant to allocate public monies for a privately-owned building. Despite the controversy, detractors had to agree that the privately-owned building has become a very public hazard, due to its deterioration in the heart of the business district.
Village Council had no choice but to act before winter weather set in and caused even more structural damage. “It’s in the whole town’s best interest,” says Council President Rick Patrick. “This is a good plan. Even if we had decided to tear down the building, it would have cost the village at least $100,000 — then what? Just leave a gaping hole on historic Main Street? If this building came down, the whole block would go down with it.”
Speaking of historic Main Street, council members and contractors rediscovered an old stage still standing upstairs in the Irwin Building. Talk began about perhaps restoring it later in order to bring live theatre and musical performances back to the historic Buckeye Hall, as it was originally called.
Discussions about the stage undoubtedly evoked fading memories of the Old Opera House, built in 1889. For 75 years, Garrettsville’s Opera House was a village showpiece. The three-storied building–with its imposing bell tower–was considered the village’s cultural center for generations, hosting dances, plays, graduations, movie shows, lectures and holiday parties. It housed village hall, an auditorium, the fire station, police headquarters and council chambers.
After 69 years, structural weaknesses were discovered by state building inspectors and the future of the Opera House began to be questioned. Estimates for correcting its faults kept increasing and the huge building became a drain on the village treasury when rental fees from the auditorium stopped. The famous old landmark fell to the wrecking ball in 1964. Only the clock was saved in a new clock tower built 14 years later on the same site at the corner of High and Maple Streets, now surrounded by parking lots.
In addition to this sad history, council members recalled that Mantua’s old hardware store burned down about 20 years ago, and even now Mantua’s Main Street has an empty lot where that storefront once stood, despite the village’s efforts to attract new business there.
Village Council did not want to bring the same fate to Garrettsville, so, according to Patrick, “We did what we had to do, before it’s too late.”