ARCANUM—Darke County has a large, expansive history.
Built in 1889, and nestled right off of Downtown Arcanum, the Arcanum Opera House is one of the county’s most interesting examples of that history.
The opera house was completed in 1889 for $11,492. The village funded two thirds of the project, with Twin Township funding is part of the Arcanum Preservation Society’s ongoing project to restore the building back to its original form.
The preservation society, formed in July 2019, is made up of all volunteers from the community.
Due to the lack of blueprints, the group is focused mainly on deconstruction right now.
“We had to start tearing into walls and stuff,” Angela Herron. “Paneling that was put up in the 1960’s, and a false ceiling that was put in in the 1930’s up in the auditorium.”
During the current deconstruction phase, the group has unearthed several treasures.
“We’ve found things from time to time hidden away,” Tim Herron said. “We think we’ve almost found everything now. There’s a hidden staircase that we didn’t know was there. There’s a door under the stage that went down into the trap room. It was all bolted up, and we found it one day.”
In order to create a plan for the opera house, the group has toured several opera houses around the state of Ohio. Some of the houses they toured for inspiration were the St. Clair Memorial Hall in Greenville, Camden’s Town Hall and Opera House, Grand Opera House Live in St. Mary’s and more.
“Some are completely restored, some are worse off than this,” Herron said. “Just to get an idea of how they were laid out and to get a concensess on, ‘Ok, that’s probably what was going on here.”
The estimated total of restoration is around $2 million, and should take somewhere between five to 10 years.
Secretary Chris Kessler said once the opera house is complete, the building will be a resource for the village.
“This building belongs to the community,” she said. “The school will able to have things here, dance recitals, a wedding venue and a meeting place.”
The group hopes to also have a retail space, or canteen for the bike path that will pass through the village.
“We want to have something where people can stop in and get a bottle of water, or something to eat or drink while on their way,” Herron said. “If someone wants to do a coffee shop within it, we are open to a retail space.”
After Senator Steve A. Huffman (R-Tipp City) arrived to the Opera House, the society showed him around the place.
Senator Huffman told the board in order to receive funding for the project, they must prioritize handicap accessibility, as well as narrow down a specific plan for the restoration.