GALLIPOLIS — The Gallipolis City Park Bandstand is seeing its first major repairs in 11 years with help from the capital spending budget passed by the Ohio General Assembly, granting $37,000 to the effort.
According to area historian Mary Lee Marchi, the bandstand is a memorial to those from Gallia who served in the American Civil War. The bandstand was not always white and was reportedly originally a combination of green, burgundy and yellow colors. The “old Victorian colors,” Marchi said. It wasn’t painted white until the early 1900s, around World War I.
“I know they used to have bands that would get up there and play,” said Marchi. “This was a long time ago, people would put their chairs around it and would listen to music with Sunday concerts. It was used a lot for that but because recently it’s been in such bad shape, it hasn’t been used often.”
In recent years, Ariel’s Tuba Time has utilized the bandstand during the River Recreation Festival and Gallipolis in Lights holds its lighting ceremony within the structure.
The last major repairs made to the bandstand were recorded in 1997, according to Gallipolis financial records, totaling around $24,900.
“I think they probably (built) it because there was nothing in the park except for sidewalks going from corner to corner and across and it was barren,” said Marchi of why a bandstand was built and not a statue or other form of memorial in the park. “Bandstands were popular in that time frame because almost every city had one. We didn’t. So I would say they probably did it to bring the community together after the war.”
Marchi said the park once was an area where cattle were driven towards the river to ship out on boats on the river.
According to Marchi’s Gallipolis Pictures social media page, in the Gallipolis Journal, dated for April 29, 1880, Marchi said, “‘Considering the heavy rain the ball given on Friday night to clear the music stand of debt, was a success. Thirty-three dollars was cleared, leaving a balance of seven dollars, which was generously thrown off by the builders.’ It seemed that two years after the Bandstand was built, the City of Gallipolis refused to pay off the remaining $40.00, so Mr. Sterling told them that he put it up and he would take it down. The women of the town took it on themselves to save the Bandstand. They raised part of the money so Mr. Sterling, out of the kindness of his heart, dropped off the remaining $7.00. You need to remember that in 1880, $7.00 was a great deal of money.”
According to Marchi’s information and a previously published article in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune,, dated July 31, 1965, by past editor Hobart Wilson, Jr., old newspapers indicate the bandstand was possibly created some time in 1878. This is in conflict with writing on a bronze plaque embedded near the bandstand in City Park.
Gallipolis City Manager Gene Greene and Marchi said they both believe the bandstand was fashioned out of redwood and cedar. The roof is reportedly a type of metal.
Marchi said that in the 1990s, she believed National Geographic had come to town and taken photos of the bandstand.
The bandstand is registered with the National Register of Historic Places. It has often been featured on letterheads in Gallia County as well as clothing, apparel, marketing and on locally created goods.
“It’s the heart of the city,” said Marchi. “I don’t know how the younger people feel, but people my age remember that if your parents were going to town on Saturday, you would go your way but you would meet at the bandstand. It was the center of the town’s being…It’s just Gallipolis. When you think of it, you think of the bandstand.”
Irvin Saunders and colleagues are reportedly making repairs and cleaning the structure, said Greene. Spindles bracing the upper floor of the structure will be replaced, Baseboard along the bottom of the structure will be replaced. The roof will be cleaned and repainted. Banisters will be replaced along with panels on the bottom of the structure. Greene said contractors and city government were still deciding whether to utilize vinyl in some of the replaced elements.
Greene said that the original rough cut beams inside the bandstand were sound and that the exterior of the building was where maintenance needed done.
Work on the bandstand started around Sept. 10.
“For me, it’s the icon of the city,” said Greene. “It’s our symbol. I’ve seen weddings performed in that thing and even some people get engagements there over the years.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.