CHAGRIN FALLS TOWNSHIP TOWN HALL
Chagrin Falls had been incorporated as a village for only four years when, in 1848, Aristarchus Champion built a brick, one-story Greek Revival style building on this site. Mr. Champion was a graduate of Yale University. He established a public library in his new building. A few years later, however, he removed the books and sold the property to other individuals.
The Chagrin Falls Township Trustees purchased the Library Hall, as it was then called, in 1864 to be used as a Township Hall.
The building was extensively remodeled in 1875, becoming an elaborate two story Italianate structure. Chagrin Falls blacksmith, Henry Church, Jr., best known for carving Squaw Rock, made and donated the weathervane which still graces the cupola above the roof.
An addition of 12 feet was made to the front of the building and wings were added to both sides. The south wing provided offices for township officials, still used for that purpose today. The north wing was made into the town jail, but was remodeled in 1934 for a ladies’ restroom. The upstairs theatre was referred to as “The Opera House” and was the site of plays, lectures and recitals. The lower hall was used for political meetings, dances and concerts.
Townships had responsibilities for the care of the poor prior to 1940. Beginning about 1905, the Mothers’ Club, a volunteer organization, assisted in this work. In return for the use of the Township Hall, the Mothers’ Club made and sold dinners to raise money to help the indigent. In the depression year 1932, the women supplied food, coal and layettes for 38 families.
The Chagrin Valley Little Theater was organized in 1929 and used the Opera House for its productions until a terrible fire, in November of 1943, engulfed the second floor, burning through the roof and toppling the cupola to the floor below.
In the war years materials were scarce. Insurance was not adequate to fully replace the loss, and modern fire laws discouraged second floor theaters, so the Township Hall was once again restored as a one story Colonial revival building. The Henry Church weather vane was found intact in the ruins of the cupola and was again placed on top of the building. The arched Italianate windows on the first floor facing Main Street survived both the fire and the remodeling.
The Chagrin Falls Township Hall was accepted for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 as part of the Triangle Park Commercial District.
For 150 years the Township Hall has continued to make an important contribution to life in Chagrin Falls. In the Early days it was a source of precious books for the “Yankees and Yorkers,” our pioneer population. In 1861, following the firing on Fort Sumter, the townspeople came to this building to hear the news. Thirteen young men volunteered that day to serve the Union Cause. At the end of the Civil War the Women’s Relief Corp met at Town Hall to Fashion wreaths to decorate the graves of soldiers on Memorial Day. The annual parade to Evergreen Cemetery would always step off from Town Hall.
The Opera House provided a site for culture, both high and low. Chautauquas, traveling shows, home talent, minstrels and The Chagrin Falls Silver Cornet Band all played the Town Hall. The annual Firemen’s Ball was a big event in the Gay Nineties.
In more recent years, the congregation of the Valley Lutheran church met at Town Hall before they were able to build their sanctuary on East Orange Street in 1948. That same year, space in the Town Hall was leased to the state to serve as an armory for the Ohio National Guard.
Today the Chagrin Falls Township Hall welcomes many community happenings and gatherings – from political rallies, private parties, receptions and programs to aerobic classes.
It is easy to see why Town Halls have become a uniquely American symbol of our democracy. They provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, as well as a common meeting house for those fortunate enough to have one in their town.