Lost: Springfield, Ohio’s Arcade

2-sept-1971

Lost: Springfield, Ohio’s Arcade

Noted as the second oldest arcade in the United States, Springfield, Ohio‘s downtown Arcade was demolished in 1988. The Arcade was adjacent to the Esplanade, and was a leading example of Romanesque, Italianate and Monumental architecture. It was bounded by S. Fountain Ave., E. High Street, Washington Street and Primrose Alley.

Arcade Building

The Arcade was constructed by O.S. Kelly in 1882 for $250,000. The Arcade was most likely built in two phases, completed with large potted plants hung from poles that bowed across each side, with a large fountain. A hotel, with 115 rooms, was lavish, fitted with brass accents, marble bathroom stalls and brick fireplaces. It was noted as the pride of Springfield.

In 1971, the library purchased the Arcade and moved some offices into the structure to relieve overcrowding at their main branch. The intent of the library was to demolish the building for a new library structure. Below is a photograph from 1971. The Capri Lounge at the time advertised show girls – entertainment until 2:30 AM!

Arcade Building

Problems in 1973 fueled speculation over the future of the Arcade. Several tenants were harassed and evicted without notice by the library, as city commissioners had balked and opposed what they saw as counter-culture establishments setting up business in the building. One such business was a “youth-oriented” coffeehouse and a clothing shop that served the needs of the handicapped.

Mrs. Florence Huebner, a city commissioner, stated that she wouldn’t “waste my mind,” and that she was “against it,” noting that there were “five or six people, [..] all hippies.” Huebner stated that she wanted to maintain “decorum downtown,” but a library official admitted that the “decorum” was questionable, considering that one of the Arcade’s tenants was the Capri Club, a bar which featured loud music and advertised “Go-Go Girls Daily.” Huebner also stated that there were other tenants ready to move in, but did not disclose any details.

On October 16, 1974, the Arcade Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. A turn-of-the-century gala was held in the Arcade on May 14 and 15, 1977, sponsored by the Springfield Arts Council. The event coincided with National Historic Preservation Week.

Arcade Building

Over time, various proposals were floated to restore the Arcade to its former state as an early indoor shopping center. But various disputes over the selling price for the Arcade, coupled with the cost of restoration, led to a stalemate. Work was eventually completed on the interior of the Arcade, which included a new skylight, but the city grew tired of having a “white elephant” occupy one of the prime real estate blocks in downtown and announced in 1985 that the building would be demolished.

On February 18, 1988, demolition began on the Arcade but not before a last ditch effort was made by preservationists that halted work for over a month. Demolition began again on March 23 and took over three weeks to complete. Today, a DoubleTree hotel occupies the site of the Arcade.

Arcade Building

Further Reading

  • Arcade Building: 18 exterior and interior photographs, in addition to an exhaustive history of the Arcade’s woes at my sister site, UrbanUp.

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