The Henry County Arts Council

The Henry County Arts Council
P.O.Box 54
Napoleon, Ohio 43545

Re: the Napoleon Civic Center Concept

We at the Henry County Arts Council, believe that retaining  and improving the Napoleon Area Schools’ Elementary and Middle School Building on West Main Street, Napoleon is a viable and exciting idea. We very much like the ideas of gathering the non-profit organizations of our area into one space not only for convenience, but for financial reasons. The John L Johnson Auditorium, which is the ONLY theatre space in our county large enough to seat 750 persons is so important for our community. The cafeteria space and gym space is great for on-going practices and use.

We believe that this building is a cornerstone of our town. We wish the support group that is heading this project good luck in the success of a civic center for ALL OF US in Napoleon and in Henry County.


Mary Katherine Meyers
Henry County Arts Council

The River City Rodders Car Club

The River City Rodders Car Club is an organization of classic, street rod cars and trucks and original finds, from our community of Napoleon, Ohio and the surrounding area. We love to show off, brag and sometimes dazzle the eyes of many. We also love to restore, while preserving the beauty of some of the many vehicles that might be discarded. We as car enthusiasts enjoy the arts in different avenues, but all work together to preserve the past.

In this aspect the River City Rodders Car Club have a lot in common with the “Save the John L. Johnson Auditorium”.
This worthwhile community center and performing arts facility is a huge part of Napoleon and its talented people.

We support and endorse this valuable project to save this historic auditorium, and to keep the arts alive.

Rodger Hefflinger

Napoleon Masonic Lodge #256 F. & A. M.

WHEREAS: The former Central Middle School and John L. Johnson Auditorium are historic landmarks in the community of Napoleon and Henry County,

WHEREAS: The John L. Johnson Auditorium is the only traditional venue in Henry

County suitable for the performing arts and able to seat seven hundred and fifty persons,

WHEREAS: The restoration and renovation of The John L. Johnson Auditorium and the adjacent west wing of the former Central Middle School will provide for a proper venue for the creation of a civic center for the community.

WHEREAS: The creation of a state of the art civic center would provide for a visual and performing arts center, cafeteria, reception hall and meeting rooms for the use of the residents of Henry County and community organizations.

WHEREAS: The Committee for the Preservation and Renovation of the John L.

Johnson Auditorium has proposed a plan to establish a community center and performing arts venue while preserving the historical tradition of the building as a common meeting and performing arts center,

WHEREAS: The committee furthermore proposes to acquire National Historic Register of Historic Places status.

WHEREAS: The committee with the support of the community proposes to fulfill their vision with the financial support of donations from the citizens of the community and grants that are available for endeavors of this magnitude.

WHEREAS: At a Regular Stated Meeting of Napoleon Lodge #256 Free and Accepted Masons on November 11, 2012 the officers and members present voted to support the restoration renovation of the John L. Johnson Auditorium,

THEREFORE: Be it hereby resolved that the officers and members of Napoleon Masonic Lodge #256, Free and Accepted Masons support the endeavors and goals of The Committee for the Preservation and Renovation of the John L. Johnson Auditorium.

The Music and Drama Educators of Napoleon Area Schools

Why do we value music? In an article entitled Vision 2020, edited by C. K. Madsen(2000) and published by the Music Educators Nation Conference, Reimer makes the statement “that to be human is to make meaning and seek meaning. A life full of meaning, including musical meaning, is a life fulfilled in one of its primary needs”. We as human beings often ask ourselves “why were we placed here on earth?” The typical high school student asks that by wanting acceptance by peers, wanting to find his/her niche in the school setting, by wanting to belong to a group. “The best reason to study music is that it gives people a reliable, thorough, and efficient way of becoming expert at creating, communication, and deriving meaning musically in the world of humans (Madsen, 2000).

How do individuals participate in music? Jellison stated that “music teachers across this country every day provide pleasurable, enjoyable creative music experiences for their students. Yet, it appears that many children and adults do not choose to continue many of these music experiences outside of school (Madsen, 2000). As the ultimate goal of music education … is to identify those skills and experiences that are important building blocks on which to structure adult music experiences” (Madsen, 2000).

Perhaps we need to plan more directly for the future musical lives of students. This can start with the renovation of John L. Johnson auditorium. The mission of the Napoleon Area City School ‘District is to “lead, learn and live in the pursuit of excellence.” The ultimate objective of all standards, all music curriculums, and all school personnel is to help all students gain the broad skills and knowledge that will enable them to function effectively as adults and to contribute to society in today’s world and tomorrow’s. Music is defined as a core academic subject in No Child Left Behind. Music has National and State Academic Content Standards, just as any other subject. Without music programs in schools, we risk losing part of our culture for the future. When we examine past cultures, what do we use to judge how civilized they were? Paintings, musical compositions, architecture, tools, language, and clothing are the markers. In other words – ART is what is studied. In fact, we use the fine arts of past cultures to judge how much they knew about our current so-called “core subjects.” Does one think people in.the future are going to look at our standardized test scores to see how well we lived? The answer is “No”. They’re going to study our ability to create ART.

President John F. Kennedy remarks at Amherst College, October 26, 1963, made clear the need for a nation to represent itself not only through its strength but also through its art and as he said, “full recognition of the place of the artist. II Two years later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act, creating The National Endowment for the Arts. Kennedy also stated in his speech, “I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future … I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft. I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens. And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength but for its civilization as well. And I look forward to a world which will be safe not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.”

As music and drama teachers within the Napoleon Area Schools District, we fully endorse the renovation and restoration of John L. Johnson auditorium. As a music educators, we see the need for the district and community to not only provide for the numerous extra-curricular sporting activities, but more importantly to provide for the board adopted curriculum-based music education within the district with a performance arena that allows for the culmination of what is taught in the classroom. The first priority of the performance area should be for the arts, music, dance, drama, and not to diminish these disciplines to secondary users of the facility. A gymnatorium does not support the classroom pedagogy. An acoustically renovated auditorium not only supports the classroom pedagogy, but also will aid the student in learning proper etiquette and decorum for an artistic performance. It will also be a reflection upon the Napoleon community in general as President Kennedy declared in his speech, to “enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens”.


The Music and Drama Educators of Napoleon Area Schools

Napoleon Lions Club

Dear Mr. Neuenschwander.

On behalf of Napoleon Lions Club, it is my pleasure to Write this letter in support of the proposal to save„ renovate and restore the historic John L. Johnson auditorium and the adjacent west wing of the former elementary school building.

We understand that the renovation of John L. Johnson Auditorium will result in a visual and performing; arts auditorium, and a community Center with a cafeteria, kitchen, conference rooms, and gymnasiums. The possibilities for use by our residents are great. As Lions Club members the motto of “We Serve” has been an important guide post for us, over the years, in helping the residents of our area and the  communities in general.

We fully support the efforts of the Napoleon Civic Center in this endeavor. Any project that can provide a venue to bring the community together is worthwhile and it is our sincere hope that the efforts of the Napoleon Civic Center will provide the necessary funding to bring this project to a successful conclusion.


Kim Schumm, President

Mayor of the City of Napoleon

Whereas, the Napoleon Area Schools have passed a bond issue to build a new elementary school and middle school building; and

Whereas, the John L. Johnson Auditorium, along with the rest of Central Elementary and the Napoleon Middle school buildings are to be torn down; and

Whereas, Napoleon and Henry County would be left Without a dedicated performing arts center; and

Whereas, the arts have played an integral role in the history and expansion Of our  region.

Therefore, I, Ronald A. Behm, Mayor of the City of Napoleon, do hereby recognize and support the formation efforts of the NAPOLEON CIVIC CENTER STEERING COMMITTEE in their endeavor to set up a non-profit foundation to save the John L. Johnson Auditorium and portions of the present Central Elementary School for use as a Civic center

In Witness Whereas, I here unto Set my hand and the Official seal of the City of Napoleon this 11th day Of December in the year of our Lord, Two Thousand and Twelve.

Henry County Historical Society

To Whom It May Concern:

The Henry County Historical Society endorses the efforts to save, renovate and restore the historic John L. Johnson auditorium and possibly the adjacent east-west wing of the former elementary school building. The building, built in the early l930’s, represents the last dedicated school auditorium in Henry County. The arts have played an integral role in the history of our region. We would like to see that continue with the establishment of the Napoleon Civic Center. The center would be an epicenter for the arts in this area. The HCHS endorses the renovation and restoration of John L. Johnson auditorium and offers their support in this project.


Rose Wiemken, President
Henry County Historical Society

Napoleon City Council and Mayor support the efforts of the Napoleon Civic Center Group

Letter PDF

June 19, 2017

Mr. Ken Neuenschwander
14-103 Co. Rd. S
Napoleon, OH 43545

Re: Napoleon Civic Center

Mr. Neuenschwander:

The Napoleon City Council and Mayor support the efforts of the Napoleon Civic Center Group in rehabilitating and establishing a facility for performing arts, office space and other uses in Napoleon. This project has the potential to bring visitors to our great City and establish an amenity that no other communities have around. It also helps in preserving a part of the community’s heritage by putting back the former Central School into productive reuse.

The Civic Center Group has done well to raise funds and establish a robust concept for this site. With more effort and community buy-in, this project can be an asset for Northwest Ohio.

Please contact our City Manager, Joel Mazur, if you have any questions or requests of the City of Napoleon.


Travis Sheaffer
City Council President
Joseph Bialorucki
City Council Pro-Tem
Jason Maassel

An outstanding debt tied to the Napoleon Civic Center has been satisfied by a donation.

An outstanding debt tied to the Napoleon Civic Center has been satisfied by a donation.

Recent Article from the Northwest Signal

Napoleon Civic Center representative Patricia Bilow said the group recently received $100,000 from an anonymous donor and those funds were used to pay off the debt.

In September 2019, Rick Graber, doing business as G5 Architecture in Archbold, filed a lawsuit in Henry County Common Pleas Court Aug. 30 against the Napoleon Civic Center. The lawsuit was for a breach of contract as Graber alleged the civic center did not pay him $90,393.92 he was owed, plus interest, and the court ruled in his favor.

Late last year, a new executive leadership team has formed to renew efforts to transform the former Napoleon Middle School and Central Elementary School into a performing arts and athletic center. The new team includes Steve and Julie Busch as co-presidents, Judy Swerline as secretary and Mark Schwiebert as treasurer.

“Certainly, this debt hurt our fundraising effort,” Julie Busch said. “But we had enough community support to start digging our way out. And then we got this call. What an unexpected surprise.

“This donor is like an angel from Heaven,” she continued. “We are very grateful. The value of a performing arts center and the added benefit of the gymnasium for fitness and athletic activities will benefit many now and in generations to come.”

Bilow said the organization continues to work toward changing the name of the project, as well as opening the building up for tours and sending out a mass mailing to reach approximately 9,000 households in the area.

The Napoleon Civic Center Foundation formed in 2012 as Napoleon Area City Schools was planning the construction of a new pre-kindergarten through sixth grade building and a junior high addition built onto the renovated high school. Due to the new facilities, the former Central Elementary School and Napoleon Middle School building along West Main Street was no longer needed by the district. The foundation purchased the property for $1 in the summer of 2017 with the intention of renovating it and converting it into a civic center.

A fundraising goal of $1.3 million has been established for the project. Part of the purchase agreement with the district included a clause that, after five years, any portions of the building which do not have a certificate of occupancy would be subject to demolition. An anonymous donor pledged the $547,000 for an escrow account which has been set up to cover demolition expenses if necessary, but those funds cannot be used for other portions of the project. Those five years will be up on June 14, 2022, which a little more than one year to raise the funds and complete the work so they can receive an occupancy permit.

Napoleon Civic Center provided Napoleon City Council an update on the project.

Napoleon council rejects golf course trail fee

Recent Article from the Northwest Signal

Napoleon City Council Monday rejected a recommendation by the Napoleon Parks and Recreation Board concerning a trail fee for personal golf carts at the golf course.

Council unanimously voted down the ordinance 0-6, with Councilman Ross Durham absent.

The issue was brought up last month to the board for discussion by Napoleon Parks and Recreation Director Tony Cotter at the behest of a member of council.

The board proposed charging half of whatever the fee for a golf cart rental would be normally, depending on the category. For instance, it would be half of what the normal nine-hole rate would be.

Two weeks ago, council seemed to be in favor of the fee, though Councilwoman Lori Siclair did say she talked to a resident who didn’t like the idea of paying money to get their golf cart licensed and approved to be driven on city streets, then having to pay the trail fee.

Council even directed Law Director Billy Harmon to draft the legislation, which it unanimously rejected Monday night.

“I have had some time to think about this,” Siclair said. “I’ve had some conversation with a resident looking forward to getting his cart street legal … and was disappointed he would be charged on top of the green’s fee because as a taxpayer he is already contributing to the golf course.”

She added it seems like the city might be trying to fix a problem that doesn’t need fixed at this point.

“I would rather be in favor, rather than charging this year and re-evaluating next year, not charging this year and then re-evaluating next year and seeing how much traffic we get and if there is more maintenance needed then we can talk about charging at that point,” Siclair said.

Council President Joe Bialorucki agreed, and pointed out Cotter said less than a handful of times has the issue arisen at the course.

“It’s almost like we’re going to deter people (from using them),” Bialorucki said. “We passed that you can drive them on the street if you get them licensed and everything, but now we’re going to charge you if you bring them to the course.”

During the last council meeting, Cotter said he believed when the private carts were brought last year, they were charged the full cart rental rate.

City Manager Joel Mazur said most golf courses do not allow private golf carts to be brought onto their facilities, and those that do charge a trail fee.

Council also received an update from a representative from a group trying to raise money to renovate the John L. Johnson Auditorium.

The group has until June of 2022 to procure an occupancy permit or the building will have to be torn down. The goal is to raise about $1.1 million, but it also inherited about $100,000 in debt.

The representative said about $50,000 has been raised since the new group took over in November, and $47,000 of that went toward debt payment.

In other business, council:

Approved first reading of an ordinance to renew an agricultural district near County Road P.

Passed, under suspension of rules, a resolution to apply for a Safe Routes to School grant.

Approved second reading of an ordinance to annex three acres of land.

Passed, on final reading, an ordinance to change the pay range for the Napoleon Municipal Court bailiff.

Approved spending $35,000 for an electric cost of service study to be conducted.

Requested legislation be brought for a contract between the city and other entities for fire and emergency medical services.

Accepted various donations for the future pool site and approved allowing the police department to apply for various grants.