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Opera House seeks Santa’s help

Published (3/25/2010)
By Lee Ann Schutz
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An illustration of the Litchfield Opera House rests on the chair of Rep. Dean Urdahl prior to the March 24 House Cultural and Outdoor Resources Finance Division hearing. Urdahl sponsors a bill to seek funds for restoration of the historic landmark. (Photo by Tom Olmscheid)As a child, Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) first met Santa Claus at the Litchfield Opera House. Now he’s hoping that Santa Claus — in the form of a $600,000 grant through the arts and cultural heritage fund — will help with efforts to renovate and restore the building.

Built in 1901 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the structure is now owned by a nonprofit that is “restoring it to its original grandeur,” Urdahl told the House Cultural and Outdoor Resources Finance Division March 24.

A longtime advocate for the building’s preservation, he took a unique approach as he sought division approval to have HF2632, which would appropriate the funds, held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill. There is no Senate companion.

As part of his presentation, Urdahl read a poem — a parody on Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” — that he’d written several years ago, and was printed in the Litchfield newspaper.

The Opera House Grinch
by Rep. Dean Urdahl

Every Litch
Down in Litch-ville
Liked old buildings a lot
But the Grinch
Who lived in West-Litch
Did Not!

The Grinch hated old buildings
Tear them all down he said
We need them no more, the builders are dead
We need not the red courthouse, he snapped
The Depot is gone, the old library’s crap
And what of downtown, old structures of brick
Demolish them all before I get sick

The Duchess of 4th Street was fairly aghast
These buildings are special, we must make them last
We can’t build them up once they are down
This is our history, the heart of our town.
The Grinch snarled at Duchess, his eyes burning bright
“And get that darn Opera House out of my sight.”

It’s an ugly old building, the walls full of mold
And Santa never went there, whatever I’m told
It’s not worth the money and it has no use
Smash every brick so we’ve no more to lose.
The Duchess turned pale, she said quiet as a mouse
“You want to destroy our dear Opera House.”

“The State has money, a nice tidy sum
Not just this year, but for years to come.
And as for uses, the House has a mission
It just takes some planning and people with vision.
Litch-ville is proud of its buildings and trees
We must keep who we are, I beg you please.”

The Grinch wiped his brow with one ink stained hand
I’m sorry he said but we saved the bandstand
That will have to suffice there’s no more to do
I cannot agree with those thinking like you
Let someone else save it, his heart doubled in size
But not the city, try free-enterprise.

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