Man remembers his efforts to help save the Ohio Theatre from being demolished

The photo of two men shows the Ohio marquee in the background with the message “Save This Magnificent Theatre.” (CAPA)
Published:
Updated:
COLUMBUS, Ohio (10TV) -- The Columbus Association for the Performing Arts -- or CAPA -- is celebrating five decades of supporting the arts in Columbus with a special event this weekend.

"It began right here," says CAPA founding member Scott Whitlock, "a few rows back there, in May of 1969."

The old Ohio Theatre was scheduled to be demolished that year. Whitlock was one of four people who spearheaded the effort to save it. "I had never been in the theater until that Tuesday night," he recalls. "I came down here with (partner) Larry Fischer and sat back there, and looked up at those beautiful columns, and thought 'this is magnificent.'"

Whitlock and his partners did what they could to secure funding to save the theater. With the help of the community, they did. "There were hundreds and hundreds of people involved," he remembers. "Thinking back 50 years ago, it reminds me of the effort to save the Crew. The whole community rose up."

Current CAPA president and CEO Chad Whittington says this weekend's celebration will be extra special. "We're really celebrating two things this Sunday," he says. "The first is the 91st birthday of the Ohio Theatre. It was March 17, 1928 when the theater was opened, so we've got a free organ concert on Sunday to celebrate that milestone. And it's part of our 50th anniversary celebration which takes place all through 2019."

The 'Mighty Morton' organ has been part of the Ohio Theatre since it opened in 1928. The music would accompany the silent films of the day. As part of the celebration on Sunday afternoon, resident organist Clark Wilson will recreate a singalong from 1969. "That singalong was part of the 1969 performance that was the last performance before they closed the Ohio Theatre," says Whittington. "So (it's) a tie-in to the beginning of CAPA's history."

That's a history that Scott Whitlock is proud to be part of. "It's the first great movie palace to be saved and restored," he says. "That's why this theater is not merely on the National Register of Historic Places, it is a National Landmark. It happened in Columbus first."

For more information on the free organ concert on Sunday, March 17, click here.