History & Tourism

Landmarks Of Mansfield And Everything You Always Wanted To Know About: The Ohio Theatre

2 Jan , 2018  

In a bit over two weeks, our friends at the Renaissance Theatre are hosting a series of events commemorating the 90th birthday of Mansfield’s movie palace, the original Ohio Theatre, and current performing arts center.

In honor of that anniversary, we are happy to share a special joint post in our “Landmarks Of Mansfield” and “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About” series that centers on that iconic building in downtown Mansfield as it was when it opened in 1928.

Over the next two weeks, we will continue to build this post and will re-share it as a feature story on Friday, January 19.

    • Date of opening: January 19, 1928
    • Cost of construction: Estimated at $500,000
    • Original organ: Kimball organ, cost $40,000, then the largest in Mansfield
    • First night show: Clara Bow in “Get Your Man.” Two showings took place at 7:15 and at 9:30 PM. Also present was Virgie Moore and his “Singing Orchestra” (the new 12 piece house orchestra) and three vaudeville acts.
    • Number of original seats: Depending on the source of information, either 1,500 or 1,783 seats
    • Ticket prices, first night: Orchestra 50 cents, balcony 40 cents, children 25 cents
    • Builder/Owner: Variety Amusement Inc. from Altoona, Pennsylvania, which already owned Mansfield’s Majestic Theatre; immediately after the Ohio’s opening, ticket prices at the Majestic were lowered (became the “bargain theatre” of its day)
    • First manager: Harry Brown, Jr.; family of theatre managers in Pennsylvania
    • Size: 180 by 100 feet. Initial plans called for 110 feet wide stage with depth of 35 feet.
    • Design: Interior referred to as Italian Renaissance, with the exterior referred to as “Gothic,” with terracotta and stone decoration
    • Subsequent history: An excellent overview is available here on website of Renaissnace Performing Arts Association.
    • Architect: Nicola Petti (also referred to as Nicoli Petti) as was an Italian-born architect who came to this country as a child. His education was characterized by a love of drawing pictures of houses, buildings, churches, airdomes, and terminals. He later worked in a carpenter shop and then in an architects office. After fifteen years as a clerk and errand boy he opened his own office. He designed a number of buildings in Cleveland’s Little Italy neighborhood. He was also the architect of several theaters, including the Variety, Kinsman, Imperial, and Moreland, and theaters in Canton, Toledo, and Mansfield. He played string and woodwind instruments. He passed away the next year at the age of 49 from pneumonia brought on by diabetes, and is buried in Cleveland’s Lakewood Cemetery.
    • The Ohio’s “twin” theatre: Opened the same year as the Ohio, the Palace Theatre in Lorain was one of Petti’s other large-scale theatre commissions. Media sources referred to it as the Ohio’s “twin.” Recent photos taken at the Palace can be seen below; the similarities between it and the Ohio are immediately apparent.

Sources: City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission, Mansfield News Journal, Renaissance Performing Arts Association, Cinema Treasures

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