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. This is the third of a series of articles dealing with the history of Findlay’s Riverside Park.
By R.L. HEMINGER
In Riverside Park’s second year, a major addition to the resort’s attractions and features was a large frame auditorium, erected on the north end of the park, just beyond the old waterworks on the site now occupied by the miniature George Washington monument.
A few months after the park’s first season, city authorities, sensing the need for a place of assemblage at the park, authorized architect L.W. Kramer to draw plans for an auditorium. Bids were opened in March 1907 and Ferguson and Son were given the contract at their bid of $8,115.00. The Buckeye Electric Co. did the wiring. W.R. Rummell put in the seats, numbering 875. There were regular opera seats in the first eight rows.
A broad double-deck veranda surrounded all sides of the building, affording promenade opportunities.
The dimensions of the stage were 30 by 55 feet, making it the largest stage within the city. There was a balcony with a seating capacity of 300. The scenery was furnished by the Tiffin Scenic Co.
A local talent play provided the opening night’s entertainment. Tell Taylor was one of the initial evening’s performers. June 24 was the date of the opening in 1907.
In July 1907, the famous Five Columbians starring the Caro Miller family and little Marilyn appeared in their “Bit of Dresden China” specialty. They appeared one week. Mr. Miller was engaged as the auditorium director for the full season in 1908.
The Chautauqua, which had conducted its 1906 programs under a huge tent on the park grounds, occupied the auditorium for its 1907 attractions. One of the headliners was U.S. Sen. Robert M. LaFollette, of Wisconsin. The next year, the Chautauqua moved to Athletic Park at the foot of Beech Avenue in downtown Findlay.
The auditorium had successful seasons in its first years, but did not work out so well later on. An airplane company occupied the auditorium stage for a time in 1914 in building airships and also had plans for a pilot training school. However, later in the summer of 1914, a plane of the outfit crashed near the park and was completely wrecked.
In 1917, the county fair, located in the nearby area just beyond the reservoir, used the auditorium for display purposes.
In May 1918 when World War I was in progress, a movement developed within the city to have the federal government take over the auditorium and convert it into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. The movement was headed by Loche LeFevre, a local businessman. Nothing developed from the suggestion, however. Use of the building for roller skating also was proposed at one time.
A severe storm late in the 1910 decade severely damaged the auditorium. In 1920, the idea of the adjoining county fair buying the auditorium for exhibit purposes was unsuccessfully advanced.
The auditorium’s doom was sealed in April 1921, when city council took action to raze the building, Safety-Service Director George L. Cusac receiving instructions to tear it down. Within a few weeks’ time, the building was gone.
Lumber from the auditorium was used in construction of several new structures on the park grounds. The city took some of the lumber for use in building new voting booths. The Rev. T.K. Leonard, pastor of a Findlay church, was given permission to use some of the seats in a revival tent in West Park.
The auditorium had a 14-year existence and there are many today who recall it and the attractions which made it popular. The Reeves Park resort, which was located just east of Arcadia and owned by the Toledo, Fostoria and Findlay streetcar line, gave it spirited competition in the entertainment field. Reeves Park also had an auditorium and weekly entertainers and performers.