The Valentine Theatre
| 410 Adams Street | The Toledo Cultural Arts Center (TCAC) was formed in 1970 to support local performing arts groups with the goal of establishing a permanent “house” for the performing arts in Toledo. TCAC’s initial members were nominated from various arts groups. Once the TCAC was formed, the group began searching for a venue that could hold around 1,000 people. They looked at a theater location at the Toledo Zoo and then interest turned toward building a small theatre next to the Stranahan Theatre in south Toledo. At that time, the thought was building a new theatre would be less expensive than rehabbing an old one. But as things worked out, the Stranahan property was too spread out to accommodate another building.
In the 1980’s, the TCAC turned its attention downtown and began focusing on Burt’s Theatre on Jefferson Avenue and Ontario Street. Burt’s Theatre was the inspiration for the Kenny Rodgers’ song Lucille. It is a beautiful Venetian style theatre designed by George Mills. In the mid 1980’s, drawings were completed on behalf of the TCAC and they included a bridge connecting Burt’s Theatre with the Pythian Castle. At the same time the TCAC was evaluating Burt’s Theater, a group of area business leaders and the city introduced a Master Plan for revitalizing downtown Toledo. Unfortunately, the master plan included a new bus line that excluded Burt’s Theatre from its route. Consequently, Burt’s Theatre was eliminated as a possible home for the TCAC.
Another result of the city’s master plan was the design and construction of a new government center building on Jackson Street in Toledo. This new building became home to local government and allowed Lucas County to move its offices from the former Valentine Theatre and adjoining Willard Hotel at 410 Adams Street. Subsequently, WGTE, a local public broadcaster also moved out of the Valentine and a city task force recommended tearing down the building in 1983.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Valentine Theatre is one of Toledo's most colorful historical landmarks. The theater was commissioned by a young millionaire, George Ketcham, in honor of his late father, Valentine (hence the name), and designed in the "Chicago School" style by E.O. Fallis. Its doors opened on Christmas night in 1896; the demand for tickets to the grand opening featuring Joseph Jefferson in ‘Rip Van Winkle’ was so great that tickets were auctioned off. In 1914, projection facilities were added for silent movies and in 1918, Loews took over the lease and it became Loew’s Valentine Theatre. In 1942, a major rehab designed by the architectural firm of Rapp & Rapp converted the theatre to an Art Deco/Oriental styled auditorium. Eventually, the rise of television and the flight of retail from downtown diminished the Valentine's popularity as a movie theatre and the doors were closed in 1972.
With such a storied history, various cultural and civic groups organized as the Friends of the Valentine to save the theater from destruction, They used the community's memory of the destruction of the Paramount Theatre in 1965 to energize their campaign. Within months, Toledo’s city council voted to save the theater and subsequently, TCAC joined the Friends of the Valentine to seek funding to save the building and open a permanent home for the performing arts in Toledo. Once again, the master plan went a different direction. The planning group recommended the downtown steam plant for the home of the TCAC. Fortunately for the Friends of the Valentine, after a six month feasibility study, it became clear through architectural drawings that the steam plant had significant site line issues caused by support beams. Once more, the Valentine Theatre became the central focus of the TCAC. As a result, a $28 million renovation of the building was unveiled on October 9, 1999
Today, thanks to the efforts of the TCAC board of trustees and many members of the Toledo community, more than half a million people have attended hundreds of international, national, and local presentations at the theatre since its re-opening. The Valentine has also been utilized by more than 40 performing arts groups including the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, Toledo Opera, Toledo Ballet, Ballet Theatre of Toledo, Toledo Jazz Orchestra, Toledo School for the Arts, Central Catholic High School, St. John’s Jesuit High School, and Toledo Symphony Orchestra.