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Thorpe Opera House seeking funds for renovation

February 8, 2019

Beth Klosterman isn’t interested in saving an old building just to save an old building.

But when she looks at the Thorpe Opera House in downtown David City, she sees potential. Right now, the nonprofit that owns the historic building at 457 D. St. is looking to raise funds to renovate the site. The project would expand accessibility for the offices currently located inside and establish a brand new rentable venue.

“It’s more than just the renovation of a nice old building that we don’t want to tear down in David City,” Klosterman said. “I’d like for people to see it as an upgrade for the office areas downtown, as well as the performing arts area.”

Built in 1889, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. Klosterman acquired the property in 1978 in order to preserve the building and in 2000, gave it to Thorpe Inc. to manage. The plan is to tear down property next door, the former home of Paradise Floral, and construct a new building to house a three-story elevator. A new air conditioning system will be installed and the opera house’s stairs completely redone.

Currently, an uninterrupted 25-step stairway leads straight to the second floor - a difficult climb for many senior citizens. The new staircase would have at least 12 steps before stopping at a landing.

The building’s theater has been host to many music performances over the years, but today, Klosterman said the space is no longer rented due to its extensive need for renovation.

Erin Roh was hired on in September to serve as the organization’s first executive director. Her goal is to seek out grants and encourage community support for the project. Her vision is to see the 250-person capacity theater become a hot spot for wedding receptions and family gatherings. While David City has other venues like the county fairgrounds and city auditorium, she said they lack the aesthetics of a century-old brick building.

“We have the event center, but as far as character and charm and rustic look, it doesn’t have that,” Roh said. “And to have something that offers that ... You don’t have to do a lot to it.”

Right now, the main floor is home to The Thorpe Foundation, Butler County Chamber of Commerce and The Banner-Press. The second phase would see these offices renovated and expanded upon with additional space added for the Boston Studio Collection, which is currently housed inside the Hruska Memorial Public Library.

Klosterman and Roh said the project currently lacks a price estimate. As the nonprofit is unlikely to be able to fund the renovation in a lump sum, the goal is complete it in bits and pieces when resources become available. Those interested in supporting the project can contact Roh at erin@thethorpe.com or 402-367-4260.​

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at eric.schucht@lee.net.

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