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Published: Thursday, 10/12/2006

Port Clinton Armory slated for auction

PORT CLINTON - A Port Clinton landmark built like a fortress to muster soldiers and store Army tanks goes on the auction block this month.

The Port Clinton Armory, which has been vacant for more than two years, once housed Company C of the 192nd Tank Battalion, some of whose members died in the Bataan Death March during World War II.

The 17,000-square-foot red-brick building, which the Ohio National Guard sold in 1984, has provided court space for the Harlem Globetrotters, a dinner theater, youth civic center, and most recently, a mall for antiques and craft vendors and a 50-seat restaurant.

Russ Brown and his wife, Marty, who spent $1.2 million to renovate the structure since buying it in 1994, said it's time to sell.

"I'm 72. We have grandkids. I don't want to work all the time," he said. "I want to spend time with the kids."

Mr. Brown said its "band box"-style makes the former drill hall a prominent landmark on the approach to town over the State Rt. 163 drawbridge.

The auction, offered without a minimum bid, will be conducted by Dutton Auction & Realty Co. at noon Oct. 21 at the Country Hearth Inn, 1815 East Perry St. The armory will be open for inspection from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

"A dollar would buy it, if that's the only bid we got," Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Brown, a Port Clinton landlord with 35 rental properties, closed the antiques mall about two years ago when a sale appeared imminent. The deal collapsed, but Mr. Brown decided not to reopen it. Instead, he tried unsuccessfully to sell it privately.

"It's been sitting vacant for two years. It's a shame because it's the best location in town," he said.

City Council President Linda Hartlaub, who recalled attending Christmas parties in the armory as a child, said she hoped a sale would lead to development that would bolster the nearby downtown.

"Anything that would make it viable," she said.

Mr. Brown said the improvements he made to the structure would provide a turnkey operation for the new owner. When he completed the two-year-long rehab project and opened it as a youth civic center, it had 10 new high-efficiency furnaces and air conditioning, new wiring, plumbing, roof, and gas and water service.

The renovations included a 50-seat restaurant and a kitchen that appealed to merchants who operated 180 booths because the customers would linger longer.

"It's a good money-maker. You just have to have a commitment to run it," he said.

The building's role as a dining establishment was developed in 1986 when two partners opened a medieval tavern called His Majesty's Feast. Singers and dancers would perform skits, and King Henry VIII would occupy a throne on a large stage.

The dinner theater lasted for a summer.

Mr. Brown said the building, which has a capacity rating for 850 people, has potential as a nightclub, restaurant, shops, or even a bed and breakfast. He said previous vendors voiced interest in coming back.

And there's always the basement, designed to store tanks. If nothing else, he said, that space would make a dandy indoor parking garage.



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