By Linda Dillman
The city of Canal Winchester opened the doors to its new City Hall at 45 E. Waterloo St., on March 28 with a ribbon cutting ceremony followed by a brief tour of the facility.
“This project was a few years in the making,” said Mayor Mike Ebert, “and we’re real happy to be in here today.”
The city purchased the former Bob McDorman Automotive Museum in 2020 with the intent of remodeling it in to a centralized location for city services. The new space houses city offices, council chambers, and the community center.
The building is named in honor of the late Robert A. “Bob” McDorman.
“Bob was more than successful car dealer,” said Ebert. “He was also an incredible philanthropist who supported the local schools, churches, hospitals, and even the city. We are honored to name the building after him.”
A plaque in honor of Bob will be displayed in the lobby of the building.
The public is invited to an open house at City Hall on April 22 from 2–5 p.m. Members of staff will be available to answer questions and show guests around the facility. Light refreshments will be provided.
Construction in the downtown area continues with the demolition of the Frances Steube Community Center, 22 S. Trine St., to make room for additional parking. The former Municipal Building, 36 S. High St., will also have some remodeling done before the Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office substation moves in.
As visitors toured the new municipal complex on March 28, members of Quilters on the Canal were already at work sewing and cutting in the new community center space.
“It is a beautiful space,” said quilter and group organizer Joyce Barrett. “There’s a lot of light. We’ve been over there at the old center for 16 years and it became home to us. We did our shows there and had our equipment there.”
Barrett said her group is growing and, after spending time with fellow quilters, she is confident the new community center will meet their needs.
There are still a few loose ends to finish in the new City Hall, such as installing video equipment in the new council chambers, demolishing the former community center to expand parking, and finishing overflow space in the building’s east end.
History of the building
One hundred and sixty five years ago, John Helpman opened a lumberyard and sold it in 1883 to George Bareis, who operated it for 50 years before passing the baton to the Cellar Lumber Company. The company closed the local operation in 1988 and it re-opened as the Davis Paint Company before closing for good in 2005.
In 1884, the complex was destroyed by fire, but later rebuilt. The same fate again destroyed the then-vacant site in the early morning hours of Dec. 8, 2012. Charred remnants of the former lumberyard were scattered across the complex following the total destruction of the biggest building on site. Firefighters from five different departments battled the early morning blaze.
In March 2013, car dealer Bob McDorman released his vision for the site with a concept plan for the 22,500 square-foot $1.5 million auto museum, which opened in 2014. It housed part of McDorman’s auto collection—comprised mainly of Corvettes—and car-related memorabilia. His dream of housing his car and memorabilia collection in a downtown museum did not last. McDorman passed away in May 2015 and at the end of 2016 the family closed the museum.
Discussions ensued between the city and the McDorman family, who entered into an owner-financed $2.4 million agreement with Canal Winchester after city council authorized the purchase on Jan. 21, 2020.
A contract with Ferguson Construction company was approved by council in April 2020 to renovate the building for approximately $4.06 million, including $3.66 million for work, $129,885 in design fees and $269,187 in general condition costs.
What was expected to take six months, took two years to bring to fruition amid COVID restrictions, supply chain issues and other factors. Existing mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems were not salvageable and were replaced, including the heating and cooling system.
In addition to city offices and a new meeting space for city council with overflow room when necessary, the new City Hall also houses the senior center in the west wing of the building and leasable space in its east wing. Parking was also increased.