How Columbus nearly lost the Ohio Theatre 55 years ago

The Ohio Theatre was supposed to be demolished in 1969, but a local arts group rallied to keep the iconic theater alive.

CBUStoday CAPA final show 1969

Ohio Theatre played “Play Dirty” starring Michael Caine for the final concert. | Photo via @capacolumbus

While the Ohio Theatre is one of the most historic venues in Columbus, it was nearly a pile of rubble 55 years ago.

Times were dire for the theater in the late 1960s. It was slated to be demolished after being sold to new owners who wanted to construct a tower in its place. And despite many community efforts to save it, the theater hosted its “final concert” on February 16, 1969.

Behind the scenes, not all had given up hope. In fact, one coalition, known as “Save the Ohio” was formed. This savvy group convinced business owners and local leaders of the value of the theater, and raised $2 million. This, combined with the threat of selling everything inside the theater before turning it over, was enough to spark a deal.

And that’s not the end of “Save the Ohio” story. It’s now known as CAPA, the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts.

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