About 150 years ago, the Town Hall Opera House had its grand opening, a dance (referred to at the time as a “Hop”). People came from Bellefontaine, Springfield, Indian Lake and the surrounding area to attend this grand opening event celebrated by all in West Liberty. Music was provided by the Springfield Concert Band and the event was a great success, making West Liberty a “destination.” People came by horseback and buggy. Others rode bicycles, and many came by foot.
Whatever their mode of transportation, they came. They were entertained by traveling drama and musical troupes. They were informed and persuaded by the “medicine shows.” The community gathered for holiday events and fund-raising activities. And the Opera House was used extensively for other varied events.
Then, about 50 years ago, most everyone got a TV. All the entertainment and information imaginable was right there in our own living rooms. People no longer attended events at the Opera House and it was consequently closed down and abandoned. Then the stairs were removed, making this change (almost) permanent.
What did we gain? We learned a lot (e.g. Sesame Street). We laughed a lot (e.g. Carol Burnett and All in the Family). The latest news was captivating (e.g. The Kennedy Assassination).
What did we lose? The answer to this seems somewhat more elusive. Did we lose community? Did we lose support and intimacy with our neighbors? How would you answer this question?
How will we benefit from a restored and refurbished Opera House/Community Center? Our hope is that it will again become a gathering place for events that will bring family, friends, and community together. We have gotten lots of feedback from the community about ways to use a restored Community Center and we will address that in a future article. Watch for further information about progress being made on the work of restoration, fund-raising, and anticipation of benefits of active programming to the West Liberty Community.
Submitted by the West Liberty Town Hall Restoration Committee.