Abandoned theater in Ohio

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio
Date added: June 11, 2023 Categories: Ohio Theater
Front and south elevation looking southeast (1996)

The Eagles Building dates from 1921. It was constructed to house the Fraternal Order of Eagles, an organization established in Alliance by 1913 and housed since that year in a prior building on the site. In 1921 the Eagles shifted to temporary quarters so that the present structure could be built. The Eagle Home Co. Inc. was formed with Judge M. C. Moore as its president, J. J. Bengnot as secretary and A. L. Hubbard as treasurer. By 1923 the Eagles Home and S. B. Cohn Clothing & Dry Goods operated from this building. Given the presence of large recessed bricked-in panels along the west wall of the building's lower levels, it seems likely that the dry good store was housed in the lower floors of the building, which perhaps were left unfinished or finished differently with large windows provided during the 1921 construction work.

In the spring of 1927, the first three stories of the Eagles Building were transformed into the Strand Theatre. It seems likely that the large west windows were sealed at this time. This was a motion picture house, complete with pipe organ, that opened May 5, 1927. Initially H. H. Boyd and Raymond S. Wallace were the owners, but by 1944 Wallace had become apparently the sole owner and manager. In its early years the building housed the Eagles, the Eagle Shoe Shine and the Strand Theatre. The theater occupied the first three floors, the shoe shine stand was probably in the spacious basement and the Eagles must have made use of the large fifth-floor hall and possibly the smaller fourth-floor hall as well. Dances were apparently often held on the upper floors of this building and may have used either or both of these two large halls. The top floor was evidently always used for office space, as it has a distinctive configuration conforming to office plans of the time; central corridor with borrowed light windows leading to suites of rooms on either side. This top floor has a narrower plan than the other floors, leaving space for a small section of roof atop the north end of the fifth floor. These offices were used at one time by a variety of tenants, judging from the old nameplates still left on the doors.

In 1938 the Eagles were sharing their space with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and moved out entirely by the following year. At this time the building's name was changed from the Eagle Building to the Wallace Building. In 1946 the building housed offices of the steelworkers union, which probably used the former Eagles hall for meetings. Meanwhile the Strand Theatre continued to operate from the building until at least 1959. By 1961, however, the building was vacant. A previous owner gutted the former Strand Theatre space to create first-floor offices. Newer steel columns and beams were extended through the former theater space to create a structural system for three floors. However, this project was left incomplete with only a second and partial third floor created and portions of the former theater, such as some walls and the large light fixtures, still remaining in this altered space. The upper floors, having been abandoned long ago, were left to deteriorate until the present owner installed a new roof.

Alliance has had a number of social/fraternal organizations such as the Eagles that have shaped the built fabric of the community. For example, the Masonic Lodge is housed in an imposing Georgian Revival-style building dating from the early twentieth century that features a grand portico and is faced with red brick with light stone trim. It dates from the early twentieth century. Unlike many earlier Masonic Temple buildings, this facility does not incorporate commercial uses such as private storefronts or offices but instead is located a slight distance south of the downtown on a prominent corner hilltop location. The Elks are housed in an imposing brick building on East Market Street, also somewhat removed from the commercial heart of the city and also not having significant commercial storefronts.

Social organizations such as the Eagles built commercial buildings to house their meeting rooms in part because the rents generated by these activities help to fund the organization. For example, the Masonic organization erected a facility in Cleveland's Brooklyn Centre Historic District to generate income for the organization. The first phase was a commercial storefront with three floors of offices above, erected in 1932. Not until five years later did the organization realize sufficient revenues from this rental building that they were finally able to attach to its rear a large meeting facility. In the case of the Eagles Building, the first floor was originally occupied by S. B. Cohn Dry Goods and various portions of upper floors housed offices, with the fourth and fifth floors being reserved as meeting spaces for the Eagles organization.

Building Description

The Eagles Building is a six-story building that measures approximately forty feet in width by one hundred twenty feet in length. It is rectangular in form, except for an indentation in the center section of the east elevation on the building's top floor. The building stands in the city's historic commercial center and is part of a row of early twentieth-century buildings in this block of East Main Street. The building's west elevation borders onto a narrow alley and a large parking lot, evidently the site of past commercial building(s). An alley is directly behind this building. Adjoining the Eagles Building on its east side is a two-story commercial building. This building may be of more recent origin than the Eagles Building, although it seems at least fifty years old, and it may have replaced a taller building on this site, because the east wall of the Eagles Building is covered with stucco for at least one floor above its neighbor to the east. This indicates the possible former presence of a building predating the Eagles Building and the stucco was used to cover rough brick created when that building was removed and the wall exposed.

The building faces north and this elevation along East Main Street, west of the center of town, receives the most elaborate treatment. Its architectural style is Second Renaissance Revival. with classically-inspired forms made from carved limestone contrasting with red brick background surfaces. This contrast recalls early American architecture, with white-painted wood trim elements contrasting with red brick walls. It therefore imparts an element of the Colonial Revival style to the building.

The architectural treatment of the facade creates two primary points of interest, the storefront and the upper recessed portico, with bands of windows in between. Each of these primary features is two stories tall, creating a colossal scale that combines with the building's tall height in relation to its neighbors to give it a sense of monumentality. The storefront is created through a classical colonnade with limestone pilasters and an entablature projecting out slightly from a wall of large blocks of years ago. Those on the lower level have slightly recessed stone panels to match surrounding surfaces. The taller windows above, which extend up through the third level, are infilled with brick. At the fourth floor level, the windows are closely spaced and have smaller modern sash, probably replacing larger multi-paned original wood windows. Widely spaced single-paned sash on the fifth floor are set beneath a narrow band of closely spaced clerestory windows which are transom-like in form. The sixth floor has a row of large closely spaced eight-over-eight windows, like those on the front elevation.

The rear elevation is plainly finished, with a chimney near its center and ranks of six-over-six windows, two per floor, that lead to the rear stairway and restrooms. The east elevation, as previously described, has its top floor recessed in the center, facing onto a small roof over the fifth floor. Here large closely spaced windows face, identical to those on the west and north elevations. The fifth floor features four plain windows near the center of the wall. Below this level, the wall is stucco-covered.

The main entrance to the upper floors of the Eagles Building is at the east end of the facade and enters into a vestibule containing two elevators and a broad open stairway. The stairway is arranged in scissor fashion, with its landing set above the main entrance. The elevators have cast metal doors that have been painted. Large panels of polished marble accent the walls and marble tiles are used to form the floor in the entry. The stairs have simple metal railings with wood handrails. They lead to the basement and to all floors of the building.

The basement is large and has modern finishes. A vault along the west side evidently extends underneath the alley. The first floor has been modernized in more recent years under a previous ownership and now houses office space. It has dropped acoustical tile ceilings, modern partitions and modern fluorescent lighting.

In the past, the first three floors were a single large theater space and this may be observed on the upper levels. At the second floor level, a webwork of newer steel framing interlaces the building. It creates a floor level for the third floor, which has actually only been constructed at the north end of this space, perhaps where a theater balcony was once located. When the framework was installed, it was evidently intended to create two complete floors of space here in addition to the new first floor, but this work was abandoned in an incomplete state, but apparently with all steel framing complete. In the process of making this transformation, the original steel beams were opened up for connections, etc. and, as a result, the decorative plasterwork was stripped away. Also, moisture infiltration from years of roof leakage has severely eroded the decorative plasterwork in most areas. Only segments of the decorative plasterwork remain in place in this former theater. From these remains its is possible to visually reconstruct this as a fairly grand Neoclassical interior, but somewhat restrained for its period.

The fourth and fifth floors have similar plans. Each has some small offices in front that face onto the recessed portico at these two-floor levels. Behind these offices and consuming the bulk of each floor are large halls. Both have fairly tall beamed ceilings. That on the fourth floor is slightly lower, perhaps twelve feet tall, and has very simple plaster trim. A row of offices along the north side of this space makes it smaller than the fifth-floor hall, which runs the entire width of the building. The fifth floor is taller, perhaps fourteen feet, and is more elaborate. Its clerestory windows and east side windows make this a brighter space and the structural system here is sheathed in classical plaster decoration. The beams take the form of entablatures and the projecting supports along the walls are pilasters with relatively simple capitals. The original decor on this floor has been compromised, not only by modern fluorescent lighting and acoustical tiles applied to its ceiling, but more seriously by years of moisture infiltration from the leaky roof. The integrity of the plasterwork is largely gone, with only smaller areas still largely intact. Its wood floor has been removed to expose the sleeper joists. The rear of each of these halls is partitioned off to form restrooms and the rear stairway, a simple feature.

The sixth floor has a different plan. It is entirely devoted to offices and has a C-shaped plan around the small light well that appears only at this level and is on the building's east side. Large windows provide plenty of light and air into these rather small offices. The plan here is simple. A center corridor, with opaque-glazed borrowed light panels, opens onto offices on either side and connects the front and rear stairways. These offices are plainly finished and yet seem to have had little alteration over the years. They are heavily damaged from years of water infiltration.

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Front elevation looking south (1996)
Front elevation looking south (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Front and north elevation looking southwest (1996)
Front and north elevation looking southwest (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Front and south elevation looking southeast (1996)
Front and south elevation looking southeast (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Rear and south elevation looking northeast (1996)
Rear and south elevation looking northeast (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Old theater light looking northeast (1996)
Old theater light looking northeast (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Old theater north wall (1996)
Old theater north wall (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Old theater looking south from balcony (1996)
Old theater looking south from balcony (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Fourth floor hall looking south (1996)
Fourth floor hall looking south (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Fifth floor hall looking southwest (1996)
Fifth floor hall looking southwest (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Sixth floor stair landing looking south (1996)
Sixth floor stair landing looking south (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Sixth floor corridor looking south (1996)
Sixth floor corridor looking south (1996)

Eagles Building-Strand Theater, Alliance Ohio Front balcony (1996)
Front balcony (1996)