by Colleen Cook
The Renaissance is celebrating a really big birthday this year – it’s the 90th anniversary of our theatre opening on Park Avenue West in Mansfield.
The Ohio Theatre was a big deal to Mansfield well before it opened on a cold January night in 1928. There were already several theatres in town, including two run by the same company that built the Ohio, but the Ohio promised to be the biggest and most modern of them all. It was advertised as Mansfield’s $500,000 theatre, which would be $7 million in today’s dollars – no small investment!
In 1928, silent films accompanied by theatre organs were the craze, and movie palaces and vaudeville houses were all over the country. The Ohio Theatre ran four showings a day, year-round, charging around 50 cents per showing. The first film shown at the theatre starred Clara Bow, a film sensation at the time, and was called “Get Your Man,” telling the story of a man and a woman who had been betrothed as infants by their parents, and who met later in life and fell in love.
Like many building projects in Mansfield, and beyond, the construction and opening of the venue was optimistic and ultimately, delayed. They had hoped to open by Christmas 1927, but delays in construction materials slowed the process and delayed the opening until January 19, 1928.
The news articles at the time indicate a general concern and frustration with the delays, given a slightly unconventional construction process that left a large pit for what was perceived as too long as the team waited for materials. As we all know now in hindsight, those concerns were unmerited given the long tenure of the theatre on Park Avenue West since.
The Ohio Theatre was designed by Cleveland architect Nicola Petti. At the time, he had also designed several Cleveland-area theatres, including the Variety Theatre built at the same time as the Ohio with many similar design features. Nicola Petti designed a small handful of theatres before his untimely death in 1929, and only four of those remain standing today including the Renaissance.
The opening night advertisement for the theatre dedicated it to, “the future progress of Mansfield.” How true those words have been over the past 90 years, as we today continue to utilize this space to welcome tens of thousands each year for arts, entertainment, conversation, and community.
This month, we’ll highlight some of the significant moments in the past 90 years as we gear up to celebrate. We hope you’ll join us to celebrate this monumental occasion – learn more about our 90th Anniversary Weekend here.