MOUNT VERNON — Downtown Mount Vernon took a step back in time Saturday afternoon as volunteers in period costumes led visitors on tours of some of the historic buildings which line Main Street.
The Mount Vernon Downtown Building Tour, presented by the Heritage Centre Association, started at the Buckeye Candy Building, and led people up Main Street toward the square, through eight buildings the public rarely gets a chance to see.
Sadie Hunter, one of volunteers from MTV Arts, played the part of Aurelia Dowds, welcoming visitors at the Buckeye Candy building. Outside, Christopher and William Hartman, dressed as newsboys, passed out copies of the Daily Banner, as tourgoers climbed into Dean Shira’s horsedrawn wagon.
For those who chose to walk instead of travel by wagon, the next stop on the tour was only a little farther up Main Street.
Leah Andrews welcomed visitors dressed as a diner waitress from the 1950s in front of what was Anton’s Grill at 222 S. Main St. from 1952 to 1976.
The studio spaces tucked into some of the downtown buildings’ upper floors were open, and painter John Donnelly talked with those on the tour about his painting in his third-floor studio.
Donnelly said he has had the space for five years, and hopes the artists who are flourishing downtown will have a part in continuing the revitalization which is under way.
“It’s typical of artists to take over unused space and use it as studio space,” Donnelly said, adding that the third floor rooms are wonderful studio space. “It feels good here and there is a lot of nice light.”
On one of the upper floors of FirstMerit Bank, volunteer Tom Kennedy played the part of bank president Charles Colville, who was president of Knox Savings and Loan Association over 100 years ago.
Those on the tour said they enjoyed the chance to see inside buildings they have walked and driven past for years, but have never been inside.
“It’s been great,” said Debbie Curry of Mount Vernon, who took the tour with friend Marcia Bond. “We enjoyed the Odd Fellows the most.”
“I’ve always wanted to see inside, and I’ve lived here forever,” Bond said.
Jeremiah Frost of Mount Vernon took the tour with his children and friend Anna St. John. Frost’s sons were impressed with the large paintings at the Woodward Opera House.
“I want to see that,” said 8-year-old Sean Frost, pointing at the stage.
In front of the theater, volunteers Tammy and Molly Souhrada and Lynne Ricard of the Heritage Centre Association were dressed as 19th century Mount Vernon residents as they welcomed visitors.
Tammy had a pair of roller-skates over her arm, which she explained were to show one of the pastimes people enjoyed at the Woodward in the past.
When theaters had to come up with new ways to attract business, Tammy explained, the Woodward invited people to skate and play basketball on the floor of the facility.
Building owner Susan Ramser showed visitors the studio spaces on the upper floors of her building, which have been home to artists over the past 130 years.
In the 1950s, painter Ruth Conley made use of the floor’s high windows, which allow in natural light for her painting.
Eighty years earlier, photographer Fred S. Crowell used the space for his photography. Several of Crowell’s stereoscopic views of Mount Vernon were on display for people to look through. The photos were made from two different shots taken at slightly different angles, and viewed through a special viewer.
Ramser said the tour allowed people a glimpse into the past.
“This lets people know how the spaces were used, and have a chance to enjoy them for the day,” she said.