By Thomas Palmer

This is a special one-day early edition of Galion History Corner, for obvious reasons.

On Saturday evening, friends and supporters of the Galion Community Theatre are joining to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that organization and the entertainment it has brought to our community during that time.

It seems a fitting moment to turn back the clock a bit further. After all, this July will see the 75th anniversary of the building which houses the GCT.

It was a warm summer in 1949 when the Galion Theatre was under construction. In fact, the first week of July saw a heat wave with temperatures in the 90s. Shade was at a premium; few houses or buildings had air conditioning.

You can imagine the thrill, then, when the new Galion Theatre opened its doors, the second air-conditioned public building in town after the Central Hotel. The new Chrysler Airtemp system kept patrons comfortable. The device, invented just 15 years before, was created for the Chrysler Building in New York City.

The Galion was designed to outclass and “outseat” Galion’s then-premier theatre, The State Theatre on Harding Way East. The Modern Theatre chain, builders of The Galion, hired Cleveland architects Paul Matzinger and Rudolph Grosel to work their magic in Galion.

Of the two, Matzinger was the more prolific architect with a large number of buildings designed and built in the Cleveland area, including churches, apartment buildings, and theatres such as the Parma Theatre in that Cleveland suburb. The Vogel Building Co. of Wellsville was selected to build the new theatre, which had a price tag of $300,000. The new venue was to have 1,300 seats as compared to 650 in the State Theatre.

The interior was decorated by the Hans Teichert Company, one of America’s premier firms for theatre design.

Frank Lackner of Chicago came to Galion to supervise; Lackner had studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and was recognized as one of the three best in the business at the time. Among other projects, he painted a 15-square-foot mural.

The lobby was decorated with floral murals, and murals were featured on the side walls of the auditorium itself. The interior design included the three dome lights in the ceiling, which are still there. The auditorium had a turquoise and deep green ceiling, and the draperies on the stage were in shades of green and gold.

The unique baked enamel facade, of course, was a trademark then as it is now.

The opening of the Galion Theatre took place on July 7, 1949, with the showing of the movie “Shamrock Hill,” a romantic musical comedy revolving around a young Irish-American woman’s efforts to prevent the construction of a television station on a site she believes is inhabited by leprechauns, starring Peggy Ryan and Ray McDonald.

Each Saturday, we post about local history. We call this series “Galion History Corner,” and we will be sharing not only stories about our shared heritage but also updates on history news here in southeast Crawford County.

This series is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield, whose “Your Historical Galion” was a fixture in weekend editions of the Galion Inquirer. Dr. Mansfield was a friend and family physician, and he inspired the current generation of Galion historians to continue his work.

Image: 1831Galion