NEW MADISON — A building located at 118 E. Washington St. in New Madison is being considered for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Built in 1904, local Masons began meeting in the distinctive red-brick building in 1936. The site also has served as an opera house, a movie theater and a meeting hall for the Knights of Pythias, as well as the Pythian Sisters and the Order of the Eastern Star. High school classes met there for a time while a new school building was being built, and plays were put on by local students as well. Many of their signatures are still visible on the walls behind the first-floor meeting area’s stage.
Charles Reynolds, the current owner of the building, is a retired architect from Kettering who owns a farm in Darke County. He was buying groceries in New Madison when he first noticed the building he would later dub Heritage Hall, which was for sale by the Masons but not being used at the time. When he asked around, Reynolds said, he was told that the building might just have his name on it.
“I called and took a tour of the building, and I wrote a check that same day,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds employs a handful of local people who have helped him clean up the building and make light repairs. His hope, he said, is to revive the building’s legacy as a venue for important social events such as weddings and high school graduations, as well as to make it a place where local young people can hang out and spend time. He’s even looking to hire an event coordinator to help him market the venue.
In the meantime, members of the Ithaca Open Bible Church plan to hold services at Heritage Hall the first Saturday of each month to benefit those in New Madison who might not be able to attend services out of town. They also plan to offer free meals there for those who are less fortunate.
First, however, comes the process of applying for the building to be included on the National Register.
To be eligible for listing in the register, a property must be associated with events that have made a significant contribution to history; be associated with the lives of people significant in our past; embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic value of some other kind; or have yielded, or be likely to yield, important information about history.
There are 25 such places in Darke County, including the Greenville Public Library, Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall, the Garst House, the county courthouse and Bear’s Mill.
“The application process has three legs,” Reynolds said. “I’ve completed the first two, and now I’m working on the last one. When I’m done, I’ll send the information to Columbus, and they’ll send it to the National Park Service.”
Reynolds expects to hear back about the decision in late September. Those interested in renting can contact Reynolds through the venue’s Facebook page or by phone at 937-293-9553.
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