Originally known as Loew’s Ohio, the Ohio Theater is built atop the site of Columbus’s original city hall, destroyed in a 1921 fire.
The Ohio Theater was designed by the noted theater architect Thomas W. Lamb.
It was furnished by New York decorator Anne Dornan, one of the first women to graduate from the Columbia School of Architecture. Dornan traveled around the world to select art and furnishings, even going on a safari to find appropriate decorations for the "Africa Corner" in the lower lounge of the Ohio. Approximately $1,000,000 was spent on art and furnishings -- more than the cost of the building itself!
Built by the Loew's and United Artists movie theater chains, the Spanish Baroque movie palace opened on March 17, 1928. The first film shown there was The Divine Woman, a silent film with Greta Garbo. Unfortunately, Loew did not get to see the grand opening, having died six months before.
It featured its own orchestra and Robert-Morton theater organ (still in use today). In addition to movies, deluxe variety shows graced the stage, with performers that included Milton Berle, Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen, Jean Harlow, Ginger Rogers, and Jack Benny.
Regular stage shows were discontinued in 1933 and the orchestra was disbanded. However organist Roger Garrett continued to perform daily at the "Mighty Morton" and occasional live appearances by stars including Judy Garland and Jean Harlow were featured on the stage.
In 1944, when Roger Garrett was inducted into the army, live organ music was discontinued.
In 1966, members of the American Theatre Organ Society began restoring the Robert Morton and playing the organ for shows again.
|The final event, other than "Play Dirty" to be held in the theater was to be this concert by Roger Garrett on the Morton. Roger was the second Resident Organist of the Ohio, holding the position from 1933-1942.|
Here is an excerpt from the book "The Ohio Theatre Golden Jubilee" which describes in words better than I can come up with a bit about the event:
"... on Sunday, February 16, the final significant event in the theatre's long life as a Loew's movie palace took place: a farewell concert on the theatre's famed Morton organ. Roger Garrett, for years the regular organist for the Ohio and the last organist to appear regularly at a Downtown Columbus movie theatre, returned for what was to be a nostalgic farewell.
The event was indeed nostalgic, ending as Garrett and the Morton sank into the orchestra pit with the swelling sounds of "Auld Lang Syne" filling the vast spaces of the Ohio..."
Loew's closed the theater in 1969 and it was threatened with destruction before being saved and renovated by the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA). The original building was completely restored during the 1970's.
The Ohio Theater was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977.
There is also an Ohio Theater in Cleveland and Mansfield, Ohio.
Jerry performed here on
10/31/71 New Riders Of The Purple Sage and Grateful Dead
3/14/76 Jerry Garcia Band
2.)^Bishop, Mary; et. al. (1978). The Ohio Theatre: 1928- 1978. Columbus Association of Performing Arts.