Logan County, Ohio, is a study of contrasts – picturesque, industrial, historic, and high-tech – the county is all of these things. It is home to one of the Midwest’s most concentrated clusters of automotive manufacturing companies, as well as countless working farms.
It is a vibrant, growing area – one to which people return to raise their families, to retire, or simply to visit. The same qualities that make Logan County a pleasant place to live – charming small towns, tree-lined streets, solitary Victorian farmhouses, Amish homesteads, outdoor festivals and recreation, and historic amenities – are attracting a growing number of day-trippers and corporations.
The Logan County seat, Bellefontaine, is located at the very heart of the county and is the hub of the 14 small communities that make up this corner of Western Ohio. Over the last 30 years in Ohio, and across the country, many families have left their small towns and spread into outlying areas. Businesses that served these families, everything from shoe stores to dentists – followed, leaving thousands of American downtowns shuttered and silent. Bellefontaine has remained fairly active largely because most county business is conducted around the square. However, like similar cities, it suffers from the loss of its retail base and the subsequent loss of consumers who now flock to big box stores or malls, instead of downtown. Bellefontaine has an advantage over most small towns – a business community determined to revitalize downtown, public officials and residents who support that vision, and an exciting opportunity to create a downtown cultural district using an existing asset – the historic Holland Theatre.
The Holland Theatre is located just off courthouse square in downtown Bellefontaine. Purchased by Logan County Landmark Preservation, Inc., in December of 1999, the Holland Theatre is on the National Register of Historical Places and serves as an anchor for downtown Bellefontaine’s ongoing revitalization. The restoration and adaptive reuse of the Holland offers the county an unprecedented opportunity to build upon this great community asset while preserving a nationally significant structure.
A restored Holland Theatre will not only spur parallel development in the contiguous area and encourage the establishment of complementary businesses, but also will create a more active, safer, attractive environment in the center of Logan County’s seat. A series of formal and informal surveys, large planning and development grants and a professionally compiled Historic Structures Report (HSR) from Akron-based Restoration Architecture firm Chambers, Murphy and Burge, has developed a strong vision for the future of The Holland. This vision includes:
High quality and professional performing arts events.
- Creative and inclusive opportunities for students, existing arts groups, and the general public.
- Multi-use, publicly available space for a variety of purposes
- It will attract and present local national professional performing arts programming such as concerts, plays, musical theatre, and dance.
- It will offer local schools, performing arts groups, theatrical troupes, and grass roots organizations a venue for public and private performances.
- Gallery and classroom space for the visual arts.
Logan County Landmark Preservation, Inc., has focused its efforts on the Holland Theatre project because the building is unique in the United States, because it is an indelible part of Logan County history, and because a restored and operational Holland will positively impact the entire region. To preserve and restore the structure is an important goal, but in order for the Theatre to create long-term benefits for the area, it is also important to approach this effort as an economic revitalization project. The Holland Theatre is over-joyed to be receiving the support of the Jeffris Family Foundations Challenge Grant. This Grant will allow the organizations Fundraising Committee to leverage matching funds from area businesses and families dedicated to seeing the realized vision of a restored theatre and revitalized downtown.
Restored historic theatres have served as an economic catalyst for hundreds of American cities of all sizes. Following the model provided by the most successful projects, the restored Holland Theatre will fill a community need while returning a nationally recognized building to its former glory. A unified public/private partnership will ensure that the Holland Theatre project is a success.