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Jennings’ Memorial Hall: Resurrecting a timeless classic PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, October 05, 2013 12:44 AM

BY STEPHANIE GROVES

Staff Writer

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FORT JENNINGS — The 98-year-old walls of Jennings Memorial Hall once again echoed with the sounds of a joyous occasion on Sept. 14 when newlyweds Sarah and Daniel Nuber held their wedding reception there. It had been more than 30 years since the hall hosted a celebratory affair. Three generations of Sarah’s family — who also held their wedding receptions at the hall — attended Sarah and Daniel’s wedding reception at the hall, which is filled with a rich history of graduations, concerts, plays, roasts, and later, countless wedding receptions and parties.

“My favorite memory from having our reception was when we arrived at the hall and everyone was waiting outside for us with the sparklers,” Sarah said with a huge smile.

 

There were 165 in attendance for the receptions. Instead of a sit-down meal, they opted for an evening ceremony followed by an appetizer and cocktail reception. The bar was tended by various family and friends and Ted Verhoff was the DJ for the dance. Mike Nichols provided late-night sandwiches as the dance was winding down.

 

“We knew we wanted to have an evening fall ceremony and we really wanted to have our reception in a space that we felt had character,” Sarah said. “We appreciated the history that went with the hall and it was very important to us that we had a space that felt open and fresh.”

Becky Pothast, mother of the bride, said Jennings Memorial Hall is part of the great heritage of the town.

“To have so many generations using this beautiful historic building is something we don’t see nowadays,” Pothast explained. “I personally have memories of attending so many weddings, anniversaries, New Year’s Eve dances, Santa visits and even my 4-H meetings. I am so thankful a group of dedicated people from our town have given so much of their time, talent and funding to bring this building back to life.”

Sarah’s aunts and uncles — Ginnie Hellman, Barb Grothouse, Mary Ann Garber and Dale Good — were married in St. Joseph’s Church during the 70s and held their receptions at the hall.

“Chuck and I were married in St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in 1970 during the Vietnam War,” Hellman detailed. “We had 250 guests at the reception.”

Hellman said that the beautiful restoration work completed by volunteers is very impressive.

“My wife and I were married on July 21, 1973,” Good detailed. “The photographer lined our family — mom, dad, brothers and sisters — on the steps of Memorial Hall, which made a very nice picture.”

Good said that there were 300 guests at the reception and his neighbors served and cooked the dinner and his friends bartended. After the dinner, the couple held a dance for which they had to purchase a $5 dance permit.

“The renovations of the hall are very nice,” Good said. “We are excited to have the hall being used again.”

Garber and her husband, Robert, were married in 1978 when the hall was being utilized extensively and the upstairs and both rooms downstairs were used for wedding receptions.

“I am so happy to see the hall being used for receptions again,” Garber detailed. “There is a lot of history there.”

In 1979, when Jimmy Carter was president, Grothouse held her reception at the hall. The couple invited 350 guests and held a dance after dinner.

“The renovations of the hall are very nice and the amount of work volunteers put into the hall is commendable,” Grothouse explained.

Sarah’s grandparents, Robert and Alma Good, were married by the Reverend John Miller on Nov. 25, 1948, two years after Robert, who served in World War II in the South Pacific, was discharged from the Navy.

“Though we were married in November, the weather was exceptionally warm,” Alma sifted through the images in her mind. “Our pictures were taken outside without coats.”

During that time, Alma said that nearly all of their friends held wedding receptions at Memorial Hall.

“I am so glad Memorial Hall has been restored,” Alma said excitedly. “It is a great honor to our veterans.”

Getting the building ready to host wedding receptions and other gatherings was no easy task.

Renovations of the historic building were long overdue and by 2006, renovations were seen as cost-prohibitive. From 2007-11, the building sat empty and unheated leading to an array of structural damage. Jennings Memorial Association member Dr. Wesley Klir said 85 years of wear and tear on the structure took its toll, there was no upkeep.

“When I entered the hall in January 2011, it was about 15 degrees in the building, two windows were open to the elements upstairs and much of the downstairs ceiling was on the floor,” Klir detailed.

Klir said demolition had been discussed and those costs were more than Jennings Township could afford. In March 2011, local history buffs reformed the Fort Jennings Historical Society and subsequently formed a committee dubbed the Jennings Memorial Association.

After some 4,000 hours of donated time and $40,000 in material costs, which were accomplished solely on donations, hall usage and fundraisers, the building renovations were completed in time for the rededication of the building at the town’s bicentennial celebration in August 2012.

Jennings Memorial Association is planning the next project, which is a wheelchair/handicapped lift that will serve as an elevator for the building. Currently, the building is leased and operated by the Jennings Memorial Association and all income from the hall goes to its maintenance or improvement.

“The building is on the Ohio Historic Inventory but is not registered federally.” Klir said

Last Updated on Saturday, October 05, 2013 1:01 AM
 

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