Preservation Spotlight #4- Springer Opera House
Updated: Jun 16
Historic preservation encourages cities to build on the assets they have—unleashing the enormous power and potential of older buildings to improve health, affordability, prosperity, and well-being. By transforming the places we live to places we love, older buildings are a key and irreplaceable component of this future, and we are richer and stronger when they remain.
This is the fourth in a series of updates on preservation projects in our community. We hope you will drive by these special places to create your own driving tour. Each of the sites has a connection with Historic Columbus through being a current or previously HCF-owned property or a participant in the Public Participation Grant program.
Thanks to the incredible support and steadfast kindness of our members, corporate partners, volunteers, and the current owners of these sites, they have a bright future!
SPRINGER OPERA HOUSE UPDATE
Protecting Columbus’ Crown Jewel
103 10th Street
The Springer Opera House, as a business, wears many hats. We are a producing theatre, an educational facility, a rental venue, a studio for film and voice-over work, and a National Historic Landmark, to name a few. A business model like ours is rare, as there are only six other producing theatres in the nation housed in a National Historic Landmark. It is this distinction that keeps the Springer staff motivated. We must protect Columbus' "Crown Jewel." As generations before us have done, we strive to keep the Springer going for generations to come.
Maintaining a beautiful 147-year-old Edwardian Theatre is not a task for the weak, it requires significant upkeep, usually for items that are deemed far less attractive to the general public, like mold abatement, plaster restoration, and roofing repairs. But for historic preservation, these tasks are vital to the longevity of the organization.
Receiving Historic Columbus' Public Participation Grant had a significant impact on the Springer's operations. We used the grant money to focus on three major projects in the building that we deemed most dire. Our first step was mold abatement in the basement to ensure the safety of our staff and patrons. Our second and most extensive project was to repair and replace the Springer's roof, which had considerable damage throughout the years that we had put a "band-aid" on to get by. Our final project was to repair water damage through-out the building, most notably on the ceiling of Emily Woodruff Hall, caused by leaks in the roof.
Not only did receiving the Public Participation Grant allow us to make these crucial repairs, but it also helped us gain much-needed exposure to the plights of being a 147-year old National Historic Landmark. Since receiving the grant, the Springer has created a new full-time position, the Landmark Operations Manager. It is the Landmark Operations Manager's responsibility to manage the daily maintenance and possesses the expertise to conduct any needed repairs with emphasis on historic preservation.
For the Springer, the Public Participation Grant was a success far before we received the funding. As an organization, it made us more aware of our surroundings and our fragility. It made us more grateful to be caretakers of what we hope will be a much longer history for our beautiful theatre. And through the overwhelming love and support from the community, we felt appreciated for what can sometimes feel like a thankless job that is historic preservation.
With the remainder of the Springer season canceled due to social distancing, Springer Resident Costume Designer, Sandy Dawson, focused her attention from designing for the stage to designing for the emergency room. With the nationwide shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), hospitals across the county have reached out to unconventional suppliers to help create masks and gowns for patients. Dawson leaped at the chance to help the community.
Dawson partnered with Piedmont Regional Healthcare to create an approved pattern for a mask that can be worn by patients in their emergency room facilities. She, along with Springer First Hand, Elizabeth Verslues, then got to work creating mask kits that include all of the materials needed to create the Piedmont approved design. With an army of volunteer stitchers working from their homes, the Springer Costume Shop has delivered nearly 2,000 masks in the past month to Piedmont.
"Our last production was Singin' in the Rain, and now it's face masks," said Dawson. "These are not just masks. They are a piece of the Springer. Each mask is made from fabrics from costumes from past shows and then stitched by
Springer staff and volunteers."
"We will keep making them until we run out of supplies, and we are almost out of elastic," stated Dawson. "There's a nationwide shortage of 1/4" and 1/8" elastic due to the demand for DIY masks. Once our supply is out, we will just have to get creative, but we are used to that in theatre."
If you would like to help the Springer, you can go to https://www.springeroperahouse.org/support-the-springer or if you would like to sew masks or donate materials, contact Allie Kent at firstname.lastname@example.org.