As this country grows older — Washington is observing its 175th birthday — many of our municipal governmental buildings show their age. Countless governmental entities are faced with old structures, and there is the question of what do we do with them.
Staring Washington officials in the face is what to do about the old city auditorium, which needs updating, and the cost is high. There are many repairs needed and the building isn’t as popular for use as it once was. New auditoriums in the city are more attractive for events.
The city auditorium, built in the 1930s with federal government aid during the Great Depression, has a history that if it could speak would please the Washington Historical Society and add to its vast knowledge of the city. At one time it was the center of most major events in the city. Both high schools used it for some of their basketball games. It was the home of the Master Bakers semi-pro basketball team that people enjoyed watching in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Wedding receptions, cooking schools, senior center, concerts, Farm Products Show entries once were housed in it, political rallies, anniversary celebrations and many other events were held there. Some events are still held there. But with its age, it’s not a popular venue anymore.
Focus has been on the old structure because of the need for new doors and the cost for them. The council discussed the door issue Monday and referred the matter to the park board. The park board plans to discuss the bids at its next administrative committee meeting and will make a recommendation to the council.
The building still has potential uses and certainly is part of Washington’s history. To raze it would be a mistake and that isn’t being pushed. Minimum repairs have been made in the past. Deep thinking is needed as to the building’s future. But let’s face it, it’s going to take some money to repair and spruce it up, perhaps add to it, to make it attractive once again. It’s an important part of the city’s history and that of the old park area. One thought is: Could it be tied into a use by the historical society?