The famous town hall on Put-in-Bay (or South Bass Island) is an iconic landmark. Like Perry’s Victory Monument that commemorates the War of 1812, tourists come from all around the world to experience its majesty. As many travelers have discovered, Put-in-Bay is the crown jewel of the Lake Erie Islands, and it’s no surprise that countless guests are thrilled to book their stays at first-rate island resorts like the Put-in-Bay Hotels, Put-in-Bay Cabins, Put-in-Bay Condos, and the Island Club so they can explore the town hall and the rest of the island’s wonders.
The Town Hall: A Need in the Village of Put-in-Bay
As Put-in-Bay developed, so did its government and the need for a town hall. In 1861, residents established the Put-in-Bay Township, which also included a few other islands. South Bass Island continued to evolve rapidly, and soon it required more attention than the township trustees could devote. So, in 1877, island inhabitants created the Village of Put-in-Bay – an official, incorporated government that included much of the island within its jurisdiction.
The following year, the new government started collecting taxes in the village of Put-in-Bay. The mayor and city council earmarked some of this money to rent spaces in private homes and buildings for their official meetings. Additional tax revenue was used to establish and police and a prison. The island “prison” was located in the basement of the Valentine Doller building, and it cost taxpayers $25 a year for this temporary “lock-up.” In 1881, the government also purchased a fire engine, which it stored in a temporary shed on the island. With the jail in one site, the fire engine in another spot, and the government officials looking for a permanent “home,” citizens acknowledged that the village needed a town hall that would bring these entities into one common locale.
A Gracious Mayor Donates Land for the Town Hall on Put-in-Bay
In 1887, mayor Valentine Doller made a gracious gesture regarding the town hall on Put-in-Bay. Doller, a wealthy vineyard owner and winemaker, owned many parcels of land on the island, so he decided to donate a 55-foot by 150-foot lot on Catawba Avenue for the Town Hall, Prison, and Fire Engine Room. He presented this land to the council for “good will and $1” with the stipulation that the building would not cost less than $10,000. His gift also required that if the building were somehow destroyed, it would have to be rebuilt within 15 years, or the land would return to him (or his descendants).
The Town Hall on Put-in-Bay: Built Within a Year
The village council on Put-in-Bay accepted Doller’s land donation for the town hall on March 14th, 1887. Prominent contractor and island resident George E. Gascoyne won the bid to construct the building and submitted plans to the council, which approved the designs after making sure that the structure would include a town clock. By December 22nd of the same year, builders had completed the town hall.
The three-story town hall was made of brick and stone and measured 44 feet by 102.5 feet. The basement featured four holding “jail” cells and 2,000 barrels of water for use in case a fire broke out. (Today, it is home to the village police department.) The first floor boasted an office for the city officials and the Assembly Room – a large room used for public meetings. The second floor was known as the Opera House, and various organizations rented out this room to host their events.
Organizations Loved the Town Hall!
Although the town hall was built for the Put-in-Bay village government, many islanders viewed the beautiful structure as an ideal place to conduct business or other endeavors. For example, the Put-in-Bay Township trustees rented a room on the first floor to hold their meetings. In another instance, a civic club leased the Assembly Room and then sublet it out to the Philharmonic Society twice a week. Andrew Hunker (a wealthy businessman and first Put-in-Bay village interim mayor) rented out the Opera House and then leased it to other various groups for a few years and made a profit.
Come See the Town Hall on Put-in-Bay
The town hall on Put-in-Bay has stood tall for over 100 years. It’s one of the island’s most noteworthy landmarks. South Bass Island offers many sights and wonders, so, come make some memories with us at the Island Club, the Put-in-Bay Condos, the Put-in-Bay Cabins, or the Put-in-Bay Hotels. Book Now!