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This Old Crack House

From log house to farmhouse. Farmhouse to townhouse. Townhouse to apartment house. Apartment house to crack house. Crack house to our house. Our house to our home.

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

And Now For My Next Trick.....

I won't make a great deal of progress on the "Crackhouse" this month because I have initiated another project. I have managed to get about 12 volunteers from the neighborhood to give me a hand at restoring the facade of this building;

The idea is to make this boarded up building in my neighborhood look like a 1920s movie theater and thus look less boarded up. It will also give some potential DIYers the confidence to work on their own properties since they can make all of their mistakes on this one! It will still be a boarded up building when we are done but the owner may actually do something with it since it should look a whole lot nicer!
Here is what we know about it.

The Wyoming Theater was built on the southwest corner of Wyoming Street and Gunckel Avenue in 1914 by Albert Staehlin. A baker by trade, the theater business must not have suited him, for the following year he sold the property to real estate investor Gus G. Kinzeler. Kinzeler, one-time owner of Funland Theater on Valley Street, did quite well during the decade he owned the theater. When attendance began to decline, Kinzeler sold his interest in the Wyoming to Samuel D. Crumbaugh in 1925. When the downtown Colonial Theater introduced the first all-talking, full length picture Lights of New York on September 22, 1928, it sounded the death knell for many of the remaining small, silent theaters. Without the funds to purchase the equipment needed for this new form of entertainment, the nickelodeon’s days were numbered. The Wyoming was no exception, closing its doors sometime in 1929.

The theater remained vacant for several years. In the 1930’s John Schaub bought the property and opened a restaurant. The "Silver Slippers". Over the next few decades, the building switched owners, but not the type of business it was used for, remaining a restaurant and tavern. It was "Kelly's Bar" for many years and boasted being the first bar to have a colored television in the 1940s. It was finally closed in 1983. Records seem to indicate that it has been vacant ever since.

Work begins this weekend and will continue for at least two more weekends. The work is all paint, stucco, tuck pointing and wood stripping with more paint, stucco and tuck pointing than wood stripping. The best case scenario is the place looks restored at a cost of around $300 and property values around it go up a couple of grand each and the owner makes a donation to our neighborhood association. The worst case scenario is the building gets a face lift, property values go up a few grand each, we do another fund raiser to re-coup our $300 and I got 12 people together from the neighborhood to have a good time who may actually learn something about repairing buildings. So, regardless of the outcome, the neighborhood benefits.
The owner is willing to sell this building in case anyone is interested in an old nickleodeon movie theater. I understand that the inside is in bad shape and the roof needs some work.I will know more about it this weekend when we start the work. He paid $35,000 for it in 2003 and has done little to it since then. If anyone is truely interested you can email me and I can put you in touch with the owner. From the perspective of the president of our neighborhood association (which is me), I am concerned with how the building looks from the street. The inside and the roof are not my problem. That being said, if I wasn't engulfed with the "Crackhouse", I may have taken this one on as a hobby.......

Wait and see what we do with it. Based on the plans, I think you will be impressed! Maybe it will inspire all you budding neighborhood activist types to do something about a blighted property in your "hood" instead of complaining to the city about it! Here in Dayton you can complain all you want, nothing will get done. In our neighborhood, we are on our own and have to take it upon ourselves to preserve our quality of life. After all, it is "us", the residents, who are responsible for our own community, not the city or county governments.
So, as I get down from my soap box, if you ever saw the movie "Zulu", there is a line in that movie that sums this up nicely. When the young private is in the makeshift jail cell for doing something wrong and he is aware that there are thousands of impi warriors headed for the supply depot and things are looking really bad, he asks the sergeant "Why us sarge?" The sergeant replies with something like "Because were 'ere lad! There's nobody else, just us."

Why am I taking this on? Because I'm here and plan to be for the next 30 years. Always remember too, no matter where you go, there you are.......


At 4/11/2006 3:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing idea Gary! More communities would benefit from organizing something like this, rather than as you said sitting on their arses and complaining to the city. And $300 invested on behalf of the community is chump change. Who could not go for an idea like that!
Kudos to you!


At 4/11/2006 5:52 AM, Blogger Ms. P in Jackson said...


That building looks cool too. I can't wait to see the result.

At 4/11/2006 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So thats the building, it looks like it has lots of potential. How does the inside look, has it been gutted? Need any bricks for the project?

At 4/11/2006 8:28 AM, Blogger HomeImprovementNinja said...

"Wherever you go, there you are"

A fellow Buckaroo Banzai fan, eh?

Good luck with the project. Having a place to practice DIY skillz is a great idea. I think that's whey Habitat for Humanity was invented. That and the homeless poor people thing.

At 4/11/2006 8:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the idea! Can't wait to see how it turns out and just how close you come to that budget! Call the local paper and have them document your progress...it's sure to light a few fires!! Keep us posted!

At 4/11/2006 12:15 PM, Blogger K said...

How exciting! I love old theaters. The movie theater in Eutaw is run down and now houses a church. If that thing comes up for sale, I might just snap it up. We NEED a movie theater.

At 4/11/2006 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uggh - I'm jealous. I want enough personal motivation and energy to start something like this. What a great idea! And the building looks like it has plenty of potential.

Wish I had a neighbor like you around. We could sit around sniffing shellac and thinking up all sorts of crazy projects.

At 4/14/2006 10:26 AM, Blogger Poppy said...

I'm going to be in Dayton the second weekend of May. I'll have to hunt down that theater and see how things are going!

I've been reading your blog for awhile now and I get a real kick out of watching your progress! You're doing a bang up job on the place.


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