Local steel manufacturer Thomas Struthers left his name on the town 125 years ago when he wanted to build a local opera house at the corner of Third Avenue and Liberty Street. The problem was that most people in town looked askance at an entertainment emporium, so he named it the "Struthers Library Building" and actually put in a stately public library on its second floor. It also housed the local post office and one of many local papers of that era, The Warren Ledger (in the basement). This was, literally, a Victorian Mall.
From this building grew the nationally recognized Warren Public Library now on Market Street and an oversized Post Office just across the street from the "Library Building."
It was an historic triple play. Warren eventually ended up with a beautiful opera house, a substantial post office, and a terrific library. The post office grew into one of the largest in the state, servicing a hugely successful mail order company in town, the New Process Company, which originally sold raincoats to undertakers.
Today it is known as Blair clothing and it has its own zip code. Blair was so popular that tourists came by the busload to shop at its outlet in nearby Starbrick and then attend a Broadway play at a refurbished Struthers Library Theatre and stay overnight at a local motel.
Blair discovered it could sell more clothes on the internet so it closed its tourist attraction, the Blair Outlet. The buses stopped coming and the Broadway plays left Warren amidst legal disagreement. In the 21st Century a group of civic-minded residents want to build a new entertainment emporium, "The Allegheny Musarium," in hopes of repeating Thomas Struthers' stroke of luck. The idea came up after the Blair Outlet closed and the busloads of tourists went elsewhere. History seems to be repeating itself. Although most people in town think a musarium is an original, creative idea, they doubt the project's feasibility. Like townspeople during Struther's Victorian Era, they are skeptical and most local industry has adopted a wait and see approach. The musarium organization has just completed a fund-raising program and is awaiting an independent feasibility study which may trigger donations nationwide from ecologically minded corporations. Organizers for the Disney-land type project (read here for more details) have already acquired land in nearby Starbrick, not far from the closed Blair Clothing Outlet. Will they build it? Will tourists come by the busloads? If they do, it may mean more seats will get filled at the Struthers Library Theatre, the 18th oldest opera house in the United States in continuous operation. With close to a thousand seats it is a treat to visit. (Continued on next page.)
The 1883 Struthers Library Theatre
Cornerstone of a Community: Across the street from the Sill House, in the heart of downtown at 3rd and Liberty streets, an accurately restored Victorian opera house offers musical concerts, theater and art films and business meetings throughout the year. This is the home of The Warren Players who are reportedly the oldest continuously performing community theater group in the United States, now in its 78th consecutive season.