Turner Opera House suffered two fires

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier. Information for the current series on Findlay “live” theaters came from the research of the late Don Smith of Findlay.

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

Two disastrous fires nearly destroyed the old Turner Opera House on West Main Cross Street. One was in January, 1904, and the other came in October, 1920. The building was rebuilt in both instances. The first fire was 14 years after the opera house has been built and when the building was no longer used for theatrical purposes.

Jacob Kuebeler, of Sandusky, one of the owners of Kuebeler-Stang Brewing Co. in that city, was the owner of the building when the 1904 fire occurred. At that time he had more than $200,000 invested in Findlay property. He had bought the opera house property from the Turner Society in the late 1890s. The Turner organization, members of which were mostly people of Germanic ancestry, had built the opera house in 1890 and many theatrical events were held there in early days.

The second fire was described by Findlay newspapers at the time as “one of the most disastrous in recent year in

Findlay.” The A.L. Askam grocery and dry goods store was a heavy loser. The Hancock County Co-operative elevator had space in the building and had some loss. There was a postal substation in the building and all records and supplies were destroyed. David Kirk Jr. and Fred Moran were the owners at the time of the 1920 fire.

Another loss occurred with respect to the building a month after the 1920 fire. A storm blew down one of the remaining walls of the structure. A nearby home was damaged by flying debris from the building as the storm continued.

In the April following the 1920 fire, the owners decided to auction off what remained of the property and James Denison and Carl Mueller were the purchasers. A rebuilding program was carried out and new facilities were provided that housed various Findlay concerns after that. The Capital Tire Store is presently in the location, at 414 W. Main Cross St.

For a time there was a mystery in connection with the discovery of two gravestones in the debris of the 1920 fire. But it was soon cleared up. Names were on the stones. An article appeared in the newspaper with regard to the finding of the stones. Charles W. Patterson, of the Patterson Department Store, supplied the information that cleared up the mystery.

William Taylor and his wife died in the 1860s in Findlay and a vault was built at Maple Grove Cemetery in which their remains were placed, according to Mr. Patterson, who was their grandson. The vault was in use for about 25 years at the end of which time the elements had made such inroads on the structure that it became necessary to remove the bodies and place them in graves.

When the vault was torn down, it was the opinion of Mr. Patterson that the stones from the vault were sold to a contractor or to some individual who had use from them.

Mr. Askam, the grocer whose store was destroyed by the fire, supplied further information. He said the stones were earlier in the possession of Jacob L. Metzler, a fellow Findlay grocer.

“Mr. Askam chanced to be in Mr. Metzler’s store one day and learned that Mr. Metzler had more of the stones than he could use,” says the Morning Republican in the Nov. 8, 1922, issue. “Consequently, Mr. Askam secured from his fellow grocer a part of the stones and found use for them in his own store.”

The names on the stones linked the stones to the Taylor family. One contained the name of Garrel Taylor, who died Aug. 12, 1868. The other stone was broken. The name “William” could be discerned and evidently was the William Taylor stone.

William Taylor, Hancock County’s first surveyor, came here in 1828 from Richland County. His daughter married Joseph S. Patterson, founder of the Patterson Department Store. Mr. Taylor was also Findlay’s first postmaster and served as county commissioner and as representative.

Next week: the story of the Marvin Theater.

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