One year after collapse, Sandusky State Theatre showing restoration progress

Back half of historic venue destroyed in June 10, 2020 storm; roof, basement already renovated
Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 8:40 PM EDT
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SANDUSKY, Ohio (WTVG) - The evening of June 10th, 2020 provided a spectacle that the Sandusky State Theatre never wanted to stage.

“I was on my front porch just a few blocks away, checking out the storm to see if we needed to head to the basement -- then some of the downtown business owners called saying there was damage to the theatre,” recalls executive director Chris Parthemore. “People started to gather, emergency services were here and started to look through and make sure no one was hurt -- that was number one.”

The entire back half of the historic venue was reduced to rubble after a powerful storm swept through. Now, one year later, most of the twisted metal in Sandusky is right where it belongs -- across the bay at Cedar Point -- though the sounds of saws have replaced songs in the hall ever since.

Replacing the roof of the theatre -- listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- was the main priority, with signatures from community members now lining some of these beams. “Getting [the theatre] enclosed before winter was huge, to protect the integrity of the rest of the building,” explains Parthemore. “You can see some of the old brick against the new, but we’ve also steel-reinforced the walls.”

From inside or from the back parking lot, the view is much improved compared to the debris strewn about that night -- but a glance inside what used to be the orchestra pit paints a different picture, with broken bricks still piled high. Parthemore says the water damage from the night of June 10th was another factor, though rainwater wasn’t the culprit: “A water main broke under the whole theatre, and pumped thousands of gallons out into the basement,” says Parthemore. “We took on a lot of water the night of the storm, so the basement has new load-bearing walls, new flooring and foundation work down there.”

Some patrons took part in an open house last month, and were able to start grasping the scale of the work still to be done. Examples of toppled details even revealed horsehair used in construction of some elements -- though other works are simply irreplaceable. “We wanted the public to see the progress we’ve made, and to get feedback from them about what they want the theatre to be in the future.”

93 years after their first performance, Parthemore vows to continue the theatre’s legacy of past acts for future generations. “We can replace the building no problem, and we’ll still have the history of the building. We still have that history of performers like B.B. King, Shirley Temple and others that have been on the stage.”

While there’s no set date for reopening, the executive director assures that restoration efforts continue to move forward. “Now we’re working with our architectural firm -- DLR Group out of Cleveland -- to work on plans for the building. Once we get those, we’ll restart construction and start to really know how long it’ll take before we can open back up.”

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