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Published: Thursday, 3/4/2004

Edgerton: Piece of history in need of repair

An opera house in the hall s upper level has a balcony overlooking a theater-style floor and a stage. An opera house in the hall s upper level has a balcony overlooking a theater-style floor and a stage.

A piece of village history is in danger of crumbling away, but a recent study has determined it s a good candidate for restoration, if nearly $1 million can be found.

The 120-year-old brick village hall was built as an opera house for this Williams County community three miles from the Indiana line and 65 miles west of Toledo.

“The whole thing comes down to money,” said Jim Brown, village administrator. “We don t have any.”

Most of the $2.8 million in Edgerton s annual budget comes from the utilities fund, primarily the electric distribution system, and can t be used for any other purposes.

The town hall was a place for lectures, entertainment, council, and school board meetings. The town hall was a place for lectures, entertainment, council, and school board meetings.

Designed by Toledo architect E.O. Fallis, who helped plan Toledo s Civic Center Mall 100 years ago, the town hall served as a place for lectures, entertainment, council, and school board meetings, according to a local history guide.

A recent study by Poggemeyer Design Group, Inc., of Bowling Green concluded that the building is structurally sound, but in need of $900,000 in renovations. The study was presented to Village Council, which is considering its options.

“It s always been the centerpiece of our town,” Mayor Lance Bowsher said yesterday. “It s a beautiful old building.”

Barbara Powers, department head of inventory and registration for the Ohio Historical Society, says the agency can provide help finding sources of financing. The Historical Society itself offers few direct grants, but is in a position to help communities and agencies tap into a wide network of funders.

“Our office has a fairly lengthy source list,” she said.

The agency also stands ready to provide technical advice and guidance on restoring older buildings and how to maintain them.

Mr. Brown says replacing the town hall with a new building would provide better work space and make it accessible for people with disabilities.

“We don t have room to sprawl out. We have to spread blueprints on the floor. It s just not functional. It s an old building,” the village administrator said. “There s not a lot of structural-integrity problems.”

At one time, the village of 2,200 people shared space with the St. Joseph Township trustees, who since have built their own township hall.

The former opera house, a full two stories and 40 feet tall, has a balcony overlooking a theater-style floor and a stage. Its eclectic design combines Italianate with “chateauesque” style that was common in some early village halls, according to the Poggemeyer study.

Village offices and the police station occupy the ground floor. Upstairs, the unused theater area is used primarily for storage, Mayor Bowsher says.

The Poggemeyer study was an effective way to put 30 years of talking about fixing the building into a plan of action, the mayor said.

“What we were very happy to hear was that structurally, it s a good building,” the mayor said

The building is not on the National Register of Historic Places, the nation s official list of cultural resources, and thus does not fall under regulations governing most renovations, said Lisa Crouse, director of the Williams County Historical Society.

“It would work better for them because there are not so many restrictions,” she said.

Seven sites in Williams County are found on the National Register, including three in downtown Bryan, and Montpelier s James Delos house, the Kunkle log cabin, the Nettle Lake mound group, and the Stryker depot.

As it stands now, the removal of the bell from the tower in 1990 to a pedestal in front and other structural changes would preclude such a listing, she said.

The village has the original E.O. Fallis drawings. These schematics, with neatly drawn straight lines, resemble works of art that could have been produced on a CAD, or computer-aided design, the village administrator said.

“The original prints themselves are worth saving,” he said.

Village leaders have begun lobbying state and federal lawmakers for money, he said.

“This is a building worth saving; it s a piece of history,” Mr. Brown said. “Hopefully we ll find the money.

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