Amherst Town Hall

Did you know that there is an opera house in Amherst? In the upstairs of Amherst's Town Hall, a performance space was built where operas and lectures were held in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

The building of a town hall in Amherst was many years in the making. Starting in 1875 Mayor A.C. Moore requested of the city council that a town hall be built. In a speech he gave to council on April 11, 1876 he stressed the need for a community space, but did not want to rush the process: "What kind of structure will it be? Where shall it be located? How shall the necessary funds be raised?...There are questions that require mature thought." Mayor Moore also described his vision of the hall: "Symmetry and neatness have much to do with beauty and can be obtained without extravagance...A commodious hall is one of the means which invites lecturers on literary, scientific, and moral questions."

Not until 1884 was a town hall finally built. Costing between $2,000 and $3,000, the hall was located on land given by Judge Josiah Harris and originally set aside for a public square. The building material of choice was, of course, sandstone. The bottom floor housed the Amherst Police, the first floor became city offices, and an auditorium was constructed on the second floor. Operas and lectures could now come to Amherst.Tickets for the events at the Opera House were sold at Kuss' Drug store on Park Avenue. School graduation ceremonies were also held upstairs. By the early 1940s, Amherst high school students performed plays on the Town Hall Stage including "The Night of January Sixteenth," "Our Town" and "Death Takes a Holiday."

In 1915, a large sign was constructed in front of Town Hall, boldly stating "Amherst: Sandstone Center of the World." This phrase was coined by local businessman O.H. Baker, who first used it on his stationary in 1910. In 1955, South Amherst residents claimed that the title was rightfully theirs and the sign was removed. It was later restored after Cleveland Quarry officials confirmed that both communities had massive amounts of sandstone in their quarries. In 2003, the Ohio Bicentennial Commission officially recognized Amherst's title of "Sandstone Center of the World" and placed an Ohio Historical Marker near the original sign.

By the late 1950s, the Town Hall Stage fell into disrepair and was being used by the Amherst police as a shooting range and storage facility. Although the Amherst police eventually moved out and took their target practice elsewhere, the auditorium in the Town Hall still sits empty and unused today.

Audio

Amherst Opera House Mary Powers Miller shares the memories her mother told her of going to the Amherst Opera House in the early 1900s. Miller's grandfather sold tickets for events held there in his drug store.
Plays in Town Hall Amherst High School students once performed plays in the town hall auditorium. Mary Powers Miller remembers performing in "The Night of January Sixteenth" in the early 1940s.
Rifle Range By the 1950s the upstairs auditorium was used by the Amherst police as a rifle range. Norman B. Miller remembers going up there to watch with his father shoot.

Images

Great War Memorial In 1924 the Amherst Eagles Aerie No. 1442 dedicated this sandstone memorial to Amherst residents who died in the Great War (as World War I was then known). Other war related dedications have been added over the years. Image Courtesy of Amherst Historical Society
Bandstand, 1915 A sandstone bandstand complete with restrooms and a drinking fountain was erected in front of town hall in 1915. Image Courtesy of Amherst Historical Society
View of 5 Points, 1914 This view of the 5 Points intersection overlooking the downtown business district was taken from the site of Amherst Town Hall. Image courtesy of Amherst Historical Society
1910 Commencement This image from the 1910 Amherst High School commencement ceremonies shows the opera house and auditorium on the second floor of Town Hall. Image Courtesy of Amherst Historical Society
Amherst Town Hall, ca. 1896 Construction of Amherst Town Hall began in 1884. Its purpose was to serve as a facility for public offices but also as a community center. This photograph was taken around 1896. Image Courtesy of Amherst Historical Society

Location

206 S Main St, Amherst, OH 44001

Metadata

“Amherst Town Hall,” Cleveland Historical, accessed August 14, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/index.php/items/show/256.