Historic Structures

Hartman Building and Theater, Columbus Ohio

Date added: November 22, 2016 Categories: Ohio Commercial Theater

Samuel B. Hartman was born in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, in 1830 and died in Columbus, Ohio in 1918. Having completed medical studies in Philadelphia in 1857, he began practicing medicine in Pennsylvania. Eventually he moved to Columbus, Ohio where he founded an immensely successful surgery practice. In order to expand his practice, he began to erect buildings in which to house his enterprises and patients; some of the structures are still extant. However, his real fame and fortune came through the sale of the patent medicine Peruna, which earned him enough money to embark upon large-scale real estate ventures.

Among the buildings built by Hartman were the Peruna Building, the Surgical Hotel and the Hartman Building and Theater. One of the most ambitious real estate ventures undertaken by Hartman was the Hartman Farm, built in 1903. It is located just south of Columbus. It began with 2,400 acres, increased to approximately 5,000, and represented a significant step toward modern large-scale farm management. It included monumental buildings, a railroad line, a power station, a canning factory and employee housing. Huge cash crops were raised and horses were bred. Today the farm, reduced in size to about 2,000 acres, is in the hands of the Hartman Trust, and is still productive.

The theater, built for Hartman's daughter, was always used as a legitimate theater. A long list of well-known actors performed there since its inception. However, financial problems plagued the theater, and ownership began to change hands. Eventually, because of a general loss of vitality of the downtown area, and because the theater was deemed unprofitable to operate, it was razed in 1971. It was replaced by a parking lot.

The following excerpt is about the original design of the theater. L. M, Boda, architect, did the partial execution of the plan. The excerpt is taken from Those Wonderful Old Downtown Theatres, by Phil Sheridan, Columbus, 1978.

"Boda, who had impressive credentials in the theater business as a result of his experience with the Valentine circuit, called the shots as to the design and construction of the opulent playhouse. He wanted the Hartman to be intimate, elegant and comfortable. The earlier failure of the New Theater of New York had been widely attributed to the lack of intimacy between the spectator and its stage, Boda was determined to prevent any and all such problems in his E State Street theater.

To insure the desired feeling of intimacy, the auditorium was made wide but not deep, thereby bringing each seat closer to the actors. And, while the proportions of the stage itself were very large, the proscenium arch opening was not made so large as to dwarf the actors or their stage movements.

The closeness of audience to stage was carried out in the balcony and gallery, as well as on the main floor. There was not a single supporting post in the entire auditorium and the stage was within easy direct view from every seat! The atmosphere of closeness and comfort was further aided by decorations which were beautiful but not coldly formal or overbearing."

The theater, built adjacent to the office building (the Hartman Building), was demolished in 197]. The Hartman Building itself was demolished in 1980 due to redevelopment plans for the city.