A History of the Sharonville Cultural Arts Center
1919: The Sharon Theater is built by Robert Wheeler (1874-1966), owner of the hotel next door at the time. Wheeler plays silent movies at the theater, with music accompaniment provided by Sharonville piano students Amelia C. Rahe (1912-1989), Dorothy Hallarn (1914-2006), and Mabel Erhardt. Wheeler’s wife, Mamie Barbara Hall Wheeler (1878-1951) is known to patrol the theater with a flashlight, watching for misbehaving patrons. This earns her the nickname “Flashlight Sadie.” Wheeler initially uses the second floor of the theater as a year-round dance hall, but eventually converts it into apartments.
1935: William G. Lewis (1906-1965) and Kelsay McWhorter (1906-1986) purchase the rights to the theater business. Lewis and McWhorter upgrade the theater, buying used theater seats from Michigan, enlisting local blacksmith Joe Long to make brackets to support the theater marquee, hanging curtains sewn by family members, and creating a homemade air conditioning system. During World War II, the theater accepts scrap metal in exchange for a ticket. It also holds “penny nights” where patrons could buy one ticket at regular price and get the second one for a penny.
1946: Sam Kaplan purchases the theater business.
1956: Cannon Simpson purchases the theater.
1959: The theater becomes the home of the Sharon Baptist Church.
1964: Thelma Gallaher takes out a long-term lease to remodel and reopen the theater. It operates as the “Act I Theater” managed by Jack Pfaff until its closure. It was said to be the oldest operating theater in its original building in the country. The upper floor is used for residential apartments.
2000: The theater is sold to the City of Sharonville and the neighboring Simpson Tourist Home is torn down.
2004: The Sharonville Fine Arts Council (comprised of Gayla Price, Sue Koetz, Janey Kattelman, and Robin Kurlas) is founded, running out of the Sharonville Recreation Center and a local church. The Sharonville Fine Art Council expresses an interest in making the theater their new home.
2007: The City of Sharonville sells the property to the Sharonville Fine Arts Council and renovates the building into a 150-seat theater for movies and performing arts, galleries, and an art education center. The renovation project was made possible by developer John Westheimer, architect Jim Sheanshang, engineer Bob Dreyer, and generous donations by Mike Gilkey, Eileen Berke, the City of Sharonville, and local Sharonville businesses.
2008: The building reopens as an epicenter for the arts in Sharonville; a new home for theater, film, photography, painting, and sculpture.