The Ro-Na Theater, located along South Third Street in downtown Ironton, Ohio, opened in 1949. It was billed as southern Ohio’s “finest theater.”4 7 Among the most prominent features of the theater were the murals on the interior, that depicted various historical scenes from the tri-state region. The theater closed in the 1970’s, and later hosted an auto-parts store.7 9 10
In January 2008, the Hampton family, the owners of the theater, expressed interest in donating the former Ro-Na to the city of Ironton.3 The city’s legal counsel began reviewing the deed to the Ro-Na for a possible transfer to the city,1 and a transfer was completed in February.3 1
In May, the Public Utility Committee of the Ironton City Council established a goal of constructing a new roof over the Ro-Na before the winter season.2 The cost of the new roof would be about $120,000. The city began gathering proposals for a structural assessment of the theater in June.3 A preliminary report released shortly after stated that the building was in good structural condition, although it required a new roof.4
On June 26, the city unanimously voted to hire an engineer to review the Ro-Na Theater property in a city council meeting.5 6 A report listing the deficiencies and what repairs need to be made was turned over to the city’s consulting architect.
City councilmen hosted a volunteering effort to clean up the debris inside the former theater on July 12.6 Rumpke donated free dumpsters for use in the project.9 This was followed up with a “white elephant” sale on August 2, which consisted of items that were donated from various businesses and residents.8 All of the proceeds were donated to the theater restoration effort.7 The Tri-State Building and Construction Trades Council, a collection of various regional unions, offered to clear debris from the theater for free.9 After fewer than three hours, the workers had filled two dumpsters and a dump truck full of debris.
Work began on removing the roof in mid-July 2009 in preparation for its replacement.11 A fundraising campaign to raise nearly $200,000 in donations to complete phase one of the theater’s restoration kicked off not long after.10 Donations were initially strong, many from contractors and out-of-town businesses that received work in the city to support the continued redevelopment of not only the Ro-Na, but of surrounding downtown properties.
The city of Ironton pledged to pick up its portion of the roofing and decking bill with monies currently allocated in the city’s Debt Retirement Sinking Fund as part of phase one.10 The account, used to make improvements to specific assets otherwise not covered in the budget, is funded through the sale of city assets and does not require any taxpayer money. Phase two involves rebuilding the façade and interior of the theater, while phase three focuses on restoring the intricate details that once adorned the interior. Community development block grants will be requested for phase two.
On September 29, the City Council’s Finance Committee recommended two ordinances that would allow the city to fund a pair of bids to replace the roof and metal decking of the theater.12 The ordinances came before council for a vote on October 8. The city was projected to fund $129,000 of the $187,000 estimated price tag, with the rest offset by contributions and pledges. The ordinance was ultimately approved.
The Ro-Na marquee was re-installed on May 19, 2014 and re-lit four days later.13
- Malloy, David E. “Ro-Na Theater could be reopened.” Herald-Dispatch (Huntington) 6 Jan. 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Shaffer, Mark. “City looks at new roof for Ro-Na.” Ironton Tribune 21 May 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Shaffer, Mark. “City looks to save Ro-Na.” Ironton Tribune 6 June 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Malloy, David E. “Ironton plans to renovate old theater.” Herald-Dispatch (Huntington) 10 June 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Shaffer, Mark. “City eyes engineer for Ro-Na.” Ironton Tribune 26 June 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Shaffer, Mark. “Council to begin review, cleanup of Ro-Na.” Ironton Tribune 27 June 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Hart, Kenneth. “Sale to benefit Ro-Na Theater restoration.” Independent (Ashland) 21 July 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Shaffer, Mark. “Community rallies for Ro-Na.” Ironton Tribune 31 July 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Greene, Rick. “Tri-State Trades pitch in on Ro-Na.” Ironton Tribune 7 Sept. 2008. 10 Dec. 2008.
- Sullivan, Jim. “Ro-Na fundraising campaign kicks off.” Ironton Tribune 31 July 2009. 13 Aug. 2009 Article.
- Sullivan, Jim. “Ro-Na roof plans start to take shape.” Ironton Tribune 23 June 2009. 13 Aug. 2009 Article.
- Sullivan, Jim. “New Ro-Na roof gets go-ahead.” Ironton Tribune 30 Sept 2009. 3 Oct. 2009 Article.
- Roberts, Brandon. “Ro-Na marquee will soon be lit.” Ironton Tribune 5 May 2014: n. pag. 13 May 2014. Article.