Wooster City Hall (1887)

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Wooster City Hall (1887)
Old City Hall
WostrOldCityHall.jpg
Alternative names City Opera House
General information
Status Destroyed
Address 236 E Liberty St, Wooster, Ohio
Town or city Wooster, Ohio
Country United States
Completed 1887
Destroyed 1962
Design and construction
Main contractor David Myers

Comprehensive History[edit | edit source]

Built in 1887 and razed in 1962 Wooster's old City Hall was one of a kind. Jail cells were in the basement and a few city offices at the front on the main floor, along with an auditorium and stage, many remember as the City Opera House. On the second floor was a balcony and city council rooms. At the rear of the big brick building was the city's fire station.

Practically every event that went on at the old City Hall drew a crowd, whether it was a concert, a play, a speech, or a City Council meeting. The stage on the main floor of the building provided a place for entertainment that featured both local talent and many famous people of their time, including William Jennings Bryant and John Philip Sousa.[1]

The old Wooster City Hall was a real community center in its day.

The City Hall Located: The Babb and Logan Lots Selected[edit | edit source]

  • The City Hall Located: The Babb and Logan Lots Selected: The Money in the City Treasury and the Much - Enjoined Project a "Go." [2]

Council met in adjourned session Monday night, all the members being present. The first few moments were taken up in an informal talk on the petition for sewerage on North Market Street. The matter was left in the hands of the Sewer Committee for action.

The President then called for resolutions in writing, when the Clerk read the following resolution, signed by Funk:

"Be it resolved by the City Council of Wooster, Ohio, that the lots of George Siegenthaler and David Ihrig, located on the east side of North Buckeye Street and between the first alley north of East Liberty Street and East North Street on North Buckeye Street, be and the same are hereby selected as a location on which to erect a City Hall.

At this point Van Nostran asked that the Clerk read a certificate, showing that the money was in the City Treasury. This was quickly read and on motion, the vote resulted as follows:

Yeas - Baker and Funk; Nays - Van Nostran; blank- Parrish, Jones, Eagan, Gow, Eason, Myers.

On the result being declared, the following, signed by Gow, was then read:

Be it resolved by the City Council of Wooster, Ohio, that the lots known as the Baab and Logan lots, located on the north side of East Liberty Street and between Buckeye and Bever Streets, said lots being numbered 15 and 16, be the same are hereby selected as a location on which to erect a City Hall.

The vote on this reesults as follows: Yeas - Eagan, Geitgey, Gow, Parrish, Jones, Myers; Nays - Van Nostran; blank - Banker, Eason, Funk

The following, signed by Banker, was then read: Be it resolved by the City Council of Wooster, Ohio, that a committee be appointed, consisting of the Finance Committee and City Solicitor, to enter into a contract for the purchase of the Babb and Logan lots. The price for both lots not to exceed $10,000 as per resolution passed by this Council; said lots being numbered 15 and 16, and located on the north side of East Liberty Street between Buckeye and Bever Streets. Said committee are authorized and instructed to secure possession of said lots at the earliest possible time.

The vote on this resolution stood: Yeas - Banker, Gow, Eagan, Parrish, Funk, Geitgey, Jones, Myers; Nays - Van Nostran; blank - Eason;

The following, signed by Gow, Funk and Banker, was then read: Resolved, That a committee of four members of City Council be appointed as a Building Committee by President of City Council, said Committee to have full power to take possession of lots 15 and 16, known as the Hester Baab and Robert Logan lots, to receive and adopt plans and specifications of the city buildings; also to advertise and receive bids and proposals for contracts, and prices of same, said contracts, and prices of same, said committee to be empowered to contract for any and all labor and materials that will be necessary for the erection and completition of said City buildings and the superintendency of the same.

On vote this was declared adopted and the following appointed as the Committee: Banker, Gow, Myers and Jones. Adjournment followed.

The selection of this site gives general satisfaction to all, and now, that the erection of a City Hall is an assured fact, those who were opposed to its construction are even congratulating the members of Council on the good judgment exercised in securing the site, and if as good judgment is used in the design for the building, it will not be long until all opposition will have been overcome.

Wooster Told Its City Hall Not Safe For Current Occupants of Offices: Advised To Move Quickly[edit | edit source]

  • Wooster Told Its City Hall Not Safe For Current Occupants of Offices: Advised To Move Quickly [3]

Wooster's 71 - year - old City hall was condemned Monday night as inadequate and constituting a hazard to its occupants as it is used now and has been used for several years.

City officials were informed in no uncertain terms to make a decision within 10 days "for the immediate future" or be ordered to restrict occupancy. Mayor Edwin Johnson received the order Monday from State Dept. of Industrial Relations and turned it over to City Council.

Councilman Ralph Kane called a joint meeting of Council and Wooster Planning Commission for 7:30 p.m. Friday "to decide our course of action."

"The condition of a portion of the existing structure," the letter declared, "is barely capable of sustaining the load imposed, with no allowance for wind or snow loads."

Roof Getting Weaker

C. R. Daubenmire, chief of factory and building inspection of State Dept. of Industrial Relations, signed the letter. He states that "unless we are advised of action in immediate future, we will be compelled to issue an order restricting occupancy."

The roof soon will be inadequate to take care of dead loads, Daubenmire stated. (Council Details on Page Seven)

A copy of the letter was forwarded to the state fire marshal, who is also empowered by state law to enforce minimum standards.

"There is every indication that corrections of existing conditions in your city building should received the immediate attention of your local authorities."

Value Is $345,000

The order came after a recent inspection of the building. City of officials were reluctant to make predictions on the outcome of Friday's meeting, but they were determined that positive action could be initiated before the 10 day deadline they said.

The value of the city building is $345,037 including the fire station at the rear of the hall and the unused top of the "opera house" above municipal court. The estimate is based on an appraisal by West Brothers Inc., of Cleveland, and was included in an overall appraisal of city property reported Monday night.

Breakdown of the figure which is replacement value, is City City Hall $195,392; opera house, $78,565; and fire station, $71,180. Estimates do not include equipment.

Time To Build: Growing Wooster at End of Facilities[edit | edit source]

  • Time To Build: Growing Wooster at End of Facilities [4]

Many people ask: How does it happen that all of a sudden Wooster's City Building needs to be replaced by two new fire stations and a new city hall?" This is the first in a series of articles to answer that question and answer other questions arising to the $900,000 bond issue to be voted on in November.

The file is a long one, although not a thick one! It starts way back in 1887 when the present City Building was erected-- originally as an Opera House: ten-ton plaster done, and all the trimmings; but not a stitch of steel.

At that time, Wooster consisted of 1,622 acres of land, and old Opera House was almost in the center of this area. Except for eight acres added in 1922, no other area growth occurred between 1871 and the addition of Bloomington Heights in 1926. A 55-year period of virtual rest.

Population also stood still: from the 1870 census until the 1910 census - 40 years - Wooster grew from 5,500 to 6,000 for a total increment of 500 citizens. So, from the time the City Building was built (for a different purpose) forty years went by with only insignificant changes in size or population.

Since the mid-twenties, however, population has jumped 9,500 to a total of 17,500 people; while during the same period, acreage within the City limits has gone up 1,600 to a total of around 3,200 acres at the present time. In the past 30 years, therefore, Wooster has grown as much in numbers and area as was here altogether after the first 100 years of its existence!

Now no one has yet disagreed with the almost foregone predictions that by 1980 we shall see some 25,000 citizens in Wooster, or by 1990 nearly 30,000. These years are only 20 to 30 away from this year. Certain units of government increase arithmetically with the population; for every 1,000 people, add no less than two policemen, and a smaller number of firemen; add enough people to the street, water and sewer departments to take care of added service runs; top with a pinch of administrative assistance to take care of the added burdens of running the other employees.

The old Opera House, even if it were in sound condition right now, could not possibly be expanded to house this growing ___ of public servants which the years ahead will demand, for it is already overcrowded. The only reason that the growth of the 30's and 40's could be absorbed in this present building was that Council in 1949 participated in a delaying action.

___ year that Barber & Magee, Structural Engineers, and Spagn and Barnes, Registered Architects, reported, among other items: "...the center roof of the building is in a state of collapse...after center room (menace to public safety) is corrected, a more complete investigation should be made of other roof trusses... act promptly to check further failure in the structure... this work may be of a temporary nature, until city is in position to provide additional needed facilities... there appears to be considerable need for expansion of fire department and added facilities or police department... pointing and waterproofing of brickwork will be required... a second floor could be constructed through the auditorium to carry additional offices, while street level could accommodate necessary garage space..."

In 1949 and 1950, around $42,000 was spent in doing part of what had thus been recommended: a courtroom was installed, offices carved out of the round Opera House for the mayor, the auditor, the clerk of courts and part of the police force.

The roof was partially repaired (one portion was raised 30 inches and steel posts inserted). No additional facilities have since been added. The fire department has not been expanded at all. No added facilities for police have been provided. No pointing or waterproofing has been done. No second floor has been constructed through the auditorium, and the street level has already been used up so that no garage space is even available.

In August of 1957, William Huff, Registered Architect, after a cursory examination of the same building, by now somewhat altered and much older, wrote in part:

"... roof has slate off... will last only short time... exterior masonry in need of repointing... tower needs attention or removal... several joints in trusses practically failed... floors sagging out of level... second story has no proper second means of egress... toilet facilities need expansion and study of fire hazards... construct 2 fire stations in other locations..."

Slight repairs were made. In September of 1958, Hunt Sandblasting company proposed to "sandblast, repoint, waterproof, for $13,7000." In December of 1957, Council has earmarked $15,000 or City Hall Improvement Fund, and added another $15,000 to same in 1958. We had a $30,000 fund-- but nothing else was done.

Nothing still having been done on February 14, 1959, C. R. Daubennire, of the Department of Industrial Relations of the State of Ohio, sent the following Valentine to the Maylor of Wooster: "... portions of existing structure barely capable of sustaining the dead load imposed, with no allowance for wind or snow...unless we are advised that steps will be taken in immediate future to correct hazardous conditions we shall be compelled to insure public building order restricting occupancy. Please advise within 10 days"! It was during those next 10 days that the vision of three new public buildings for Wooster was born again!

Talk of Building Clouds Old City Hall Site's Fate[edit | edit source]

  • Talk of Building Clouds Old City Hall Site's Fate [5]

The future of the East Liberty Street site of Wooster's old city hall took on a new aspect this week with fresh discussion of the property as a possible building site.

"We originally expected to make a small park there," Mayor Jack Lester told a Chamber of Commerce merchants' group Tuesday night, "but there is some interest now by a builder who would like to buy it and put up an office building. We just aren't certain. However, we still think it will be a park for awhile at least."

Situation 'Fluid'

Chamber of Commerce Manager Fred Neuenschwander said he has discussed the site with a Medina builder, but that the builder has not seen the property and the matter is "so fluid and in such an early state that there is nothing definite that can be said about it."

He said that any prospective downtown builder would be shown the old city hall site as "the most readily available downtown site."

Monday night Neuenschwander informed city council of the interest and suggested that a price on the property be set. No price has been set by either the city or a prospective buyer.

Wants Post Office Annex

Also uncertain in the property's future is starting time for the razing of the former downtown fire station on the rear of the lot.

Mayor Jack Lester said a decision on where to relocate the parking meter repair department housed there is yet to be made.

The mayor has recommended to Postmaster Henry M. Heyl that the post office vacate the city-owned building on the Buckeye-North parking lot "as soon as possible" as quarters for the meter department. The post office leases the building from the city as an annex but will not need it when a new Wooster post office is built. No site for a post office has been announced.

Wants Shop Closer

"I think the parking meter equipment should be located in the parking meter area." Mayor Lester told the Record today.

Earlier plans called for moving the meter department to the former Wooster Farm Dairies Building on Madison Avenue, which becomes city property when the Expressway is completed next summer or fall.

Freeman Construction Co. has leveled the front portion of the old city hall site. Walter Jones Construction Co. has contracted to level the remainder, when officials decide where to put the meter shop.

Owners[edit | edit source]

Tenants[edit | edit source]

Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1887 Constructed
  • 1962 Demolished

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Historical documents[edit | edit source]

Business letterheads[edit | edit source]

Photos[edit | edit source]

Building Condition[edit | edit source]

Maps[edit | edit source]

Newspaper articles[edit | edit source]

Newspaper full-text articles[edit | edit source]

Newspaper ads[edit | edit source]

Newspaper citations with no attached images[edit | edit source]

  • March 17, 1887: "The City Hall Located: The Babb and Logan Lots Selected", Wooster Republican, p. 3.
  • April 07, 1887: "The Third City Hall injunction suit brought on the eve of election for political effect was loaded at both ends, it kicked so hard that the Exchange block ring were paralyzed.", Wooster Republican, p. 123.
  • April 7, 1887: "The buildings on the City Hall lots were sold last Saturday by Samuel Lightcap, auctioneer. John Heil purchased the Babb building for $76, and John Fitzgerald secured the barn and outbuildings for $3. Samuel Ames secured the Logan house for @1215, and Andrew Busch the barn for $9.50. A number of pumps and other articles were also sold. A portion of the Babb building will be moved on the lot back of Geo. Schuch's. saloon and used for a blacksmith shop.", Wooster Republican, p. 3.
  • June 06, 1888: "DEDICATED: City Hall Transferred to the Public; Addresses by Hon. A. S. McClure and Hon John McSweeney", Wayne County Democrat, p. 123.
  • "Good Work Done by Contractor David Myers and his Associates on City Hall.", Wooster Republican, 1888-JUN-07 p.3 column 07
  • August 27, 1957: "Scramble-- For Better Or Worse Wooster's Had It Four Months" by Gracie Beers, The Daily Record, p. 123.
  • February 17, 1959: "Wooster Told Its City Hall Not Safe for Current Occupants Of Offices: Advised To Move Quickly" by Jane Doe, The Daily Record, p. 123.
  • February 23, 1959: "We May Have to Build New City Hall", The Daily Record, p. 123.
  • October 00, 1959: "Time To Build: Growing Wooster At End of Facilities", The Daily Record, p. 123.


  • October 03, 1960: "Wooster To Build City Hall, Fire Station Here - Contracts Expected Jan. 1 For Separate Buildings", The Daily Record, p. 123.
  • December 09, 1961: "Wooster's New City Building: Is It Bargain Beauty, or Beast? Three Building Cost $200,000 Less Than Amount Voters Approved", The Daily Record, p. 123.
  • January 09, 1962: "Talk of Building Clouds Old City Hall Site's Fate", The Daily Record, p. 123.
  • March 05, 1962: "Wooster's Dedication on Sunday: Ceremonies Precede Public Inspections At Three Buildings", The Daily Record, p. 123.
  • March 08, 1962: "What Wooster Mast Plan May Do Reported", The Daily Record, p. 123.
  • April 04, 1962: "City Hall's Swan Son Begins: Wooster Officials Packing" by Elinor Taylor, The Daily Record, p. 16.
  • June 06, 1962: "Denizens Of Month-Old Wooster City Building Find It Nice Place to Work" by William L. Parker, The Daily Record, p. 123.


  • February 08, 1964: "Organization Table Defines Lines of Wooster Government Authority", The Daily Record, p. 123.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. The Daily Record, 1993-AUG-24, Fuddy-Duddys (And Others) Remember Old City Hall by Elinor Taylor.
  2. Wooster Republican, Wooster, Ohio. 1887 Mar 17, p. 3
  3. Daily Record, Wooster, Ohio. 1959 Feb 17.
  4. Daily Record, Wooster, Ohio. 1959 Oct 1
  5. Daily Record, Wooster, Ohio. 1962 Jan 9.

What Links Here[edit | edit source]