Town Square (Bigelow Park) - Johnstown, OH
Posted by: silverquill
N 40° 09.217 W 082° 41.089
17T E 356503 N 4446168
Quick Description: This large park, also town square, has as its focal point the two-story brick Monroe Township Hall and Opera House building, dedicated in 1885, one of only about a dozen surviving opera houses in the state of Ohio.
Location: Ohio, United States
Date Posted: 4/17/2012 7:14:48 AM
Waymark Code: WME87W
The Monroe Township Hall is surrounded by this spacious town green, also known as Bigelow Park in honor of Oliver Bigelow, town founder, who donated the land to the town when he died in 1817. It forms the backdrop for an ornate town clock and gazebo, and a veteran memorial of flag poles with artillery displays. There is no actual identifying sign for the park/town square.
The following his from Downtown Johnstown:
"The town square was a gift of Oliver Bigelow when he laid out Johnstown in 1813. The square is called Bigelow Park in his honor. Bigelow died in 1817, but his dream became a reality in 1883 when Elijah Barton began the Town Hall/Opera House. The plaque outside notes that this edifice completed in 1885 is to be known as the Monroe Township Building.
On January 1, 1885 it was dedicated “forever” to the village. It was considered the civic center of the Village. Today the Monroe Township Trustees have control of the building and land adjacent, and the Village Council controls the land adjoining the twenty foot strip of land next to the building. Currently, the Johnstown Historical Society has a museum and offices on the first floor.
The Town Hall/Opera House is a two story building. The raised stage of the Opera House once hosted lectures, plays, musical revivals, political rallies, the unforgettable medicine shows and vaudeville acts, as well as high school graduation ceremonies. Today it is still used for plays and musical events.
The old backdrops made by Armbruster and Son in 1885 are still being used. The Swiss Alps mural is a fascinating scene with its houses perched on high crags, and ranging from mountain streams to narrow bridges.
The Town-Hall Opera House is on the National Register of Historic Buildings due to the efforts of the Johnstown Historical Society and the Monroe Township Trustees. It has seating for 290 people."
And, here's a little town history from the Village of Johnstown:
"Johnstown lies in a section of Ohio originally designated as the U.S. Military Tract. This area was set aside as a means of paying Revolutionary War soldiers for their service. The land on which Johnstown sits was originally deeded to John Brown, a veteran from Kentucky, but in 1810 he sold it to a New Yorker, Dr. Oliver Bigelow. Bigelow laid out the village in 1813, donating the streets and Town Square.
Johnstown grew slowly from its founding until 1880. It came to function as the hub of Monroe, Liberty and Jersey Townships. The economy of the area was based on agriculture, and thus many of the businesses in the Village at the time served agricultural needs. Schools were established early on, both in the Village and in the outlying territory. Residents laid out local roads throughout the countryside. The earliest churches established in Johnstown were the Methodist Episcopal, Presbyterian and Baptist churches. Although Johnstown contributed many soldiers to the Civil War, it never became an important center of anti-slavery activity as, for instance, Granville had.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, several important changes occurred. Foremost was the construction of a railroad in 1880. Other developments included the establishment of a newspaper, the Johnstown Independent, the construction of the town hall, and the installation of telephone lines. After the advent of the railroad, growth accelerated. The town's population more than tripled between 1880 and 1920, increasing from 278 to 906. Most of this influx seems to have come from the surrounding rural areas."