Saturday, February 5th, 2022

Opera house on the register

By Leslie Gartrell
FORT RECOVERY - The Fort Recovery Morvilius Opera House has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, said Karen Meiring, president of the Fort Recovery Friends of the Opera House board on Friday.
The new designation makes the building eligible for more federal, state and private foundation grants designed to protect the building's historic significance, Meiring said.
Hidden on the second story above a business on North Wayne Street, The Fort Recovery Morvilius Opera House was built in 1883 by Peter and Ida Schneider. The Huddle Drug Store and a saloon the Schneider's operated for patrons to visit after shows was located on the first floor.
Meiring said the process to have the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places took about a year, including gathering necessary documents and applying in July 2021.
Members of the Fort Recovery Friends of the Opera House gathered the materials and submitted the application, Meiring said. The group at the time didn't have the money to hire someone to help them, she said, so they did it themselves.
The national designation also improves the group's chance of receiving a $250,000 state Community Development Block Grant the Friends group applied for in late 2021, Meiring added.
Meiring said if the group receives the grant, it will have received more than $1 million in funding, of which $880,000 has been raised through donations and fundraisers.
Meiring said the group hopes a generous benefactor will step up to help fund the construction of a proposed annex for the opera house. The annex would house a mechanical room for heating and cooling equipment, an elevator to make the building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and possibly restrooms if the groups doesn't put them in the existing building.
"Everything has been moving smoothly but slowly," she said. "We formed this committee in July 2019, and it doesn't seem like three years ago. All the progress we've made in three years is amazing."
The Fort Recovery Friends of the Opera House will have its next meeting on Feb. 19, Meiring said, where they will discuss next steps for the opera house.
In 1898 Russell Morvilius, a prominent businessman, bought the opera house for his daughter, Fay, when she was 8 or 9 years old and changed the name to the Morvilius Opera House, Meiring had said.
Fay Morvilius loved to sing, and later went on to perform opera on the Chautauqua circuit, an adult education and social movement in the U.S., and all over the world. She owned the opera house until 1950, when she sold the business to Leo and Gladys Gilligan, Meiring said.
The Gilligans sold the business to Jim King in 1971, Meiring said. The opera house narrowly escaped ruin in 1976 after there was a fire in the building next door, she said, and was later sold to Cy Brockman in 1979.
Cy Brockman's son Mike Brockman ran an appliance store on the first floor of the building until the Fort Recovery Friends of the Opera House purchased the building in December 2020, Meiring said.
Visit the Fort Recovery Morvilius Opera House Facebook page for more information.
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