The Woodward is the oldest authentic nineteenth-century theater still standing in America. During the Woodward’s early years, lively crowds flocked to see both traveling musicians and homegrown talent. The building itself was truly multipurpose, providing a venue for lectures and discussions as well as a space for businesses. Once the heart of Knox County’s entertainment culture, today the Woodward is undergoing extensive restoration. The Shoppe at the Woodward sells gift items with Ohio flair, and The Place at the Woodward provides a stage for chautauqua and lyceum shows. The Woodward aims to rebuild its role as a dynamic center for the community’s economic and artistic aspirations.

“Everyone attended…. Local people performed there. The local Elks Club would have minstrels there. It was like a precursor to today’s Tonight Show, so the things that we have today that get a little carried away, they were doing then.” Sandy Crow, project assistant, Woodward Development Corporation

“Woodward’s significance to public life, you have to get your- self into what life was really like. Most jobs were manual labor, people would work all day, and where did you go for entertainment? Where did you go to learn things, to hear lectures on lightning and electricity? Where did you go to participate in public discourse?” Pat Crow, project manager, Woodward Development Corporation

“It’s an opportunity for community building. It brings in educational types of things, musical types of things, and opportunities you normally would not have. It also brings in people from outside the community, which hopefully will generate commerce. It’s a win-win-win situation.” Mike Petee, volunteer and performer, The Place at the Woodward

In the 1870s the building underwent expansion to accommodate larger crowds. Courtesy Knox County Historical Society 
This 1889 issue of The Programmer featured local business advertisements. The Woodward’s success encouraged the establishment of other businesses in downtown Mount Vernon. Courtesy Knox County 
Even after one hundred years, elements of the Woodward’s original aesthetics remain in place. Courtesy Charlotte Woolf 

A playbill for the 1892 performance of The Witch. Shows at the Woodward were in such high demand that many sold out a week in advance. Visitors and locals competed for the loudest applause. Courtesy Knox County Historical Society 
A vaudeville trunk on display at the Woodward. The theater reflected the changing entertainment scene in Knox County, welcoming famous traveling acts from all over the country. Courtesy Charlotte Woolf 
Phase four of the Woodward project will transform the interior of the theater to its original architecture. Courtesy Charlotte Woolf