Downtown Johnstown Inc. is pursuing improvements to the old town hall in hopes of making it a destination for businesses and residents.

Downtown Johnstown Inc. is pursuing improvements to the old town hall in hopes of making it a destination for businesses and residents.

Adam Roberts of Downtown Johnstown said the group is trying to raise an estimated $30,000 to replace the cupola in an effort to make it historically accurate.

The opera house in the old town hall building in Bigelow Park was constructed in 1850 and is one of only seven surviving opera houses in Ohio. The building is home to the Johnstown Historical Society.

"We're just looking at ways to revitalize downtown and make it more attractive for more businesses to come and for residents to have a reason to go downtown," Roberts said.

Village council pledged $5,000 from the Chambers Fund earlier this month to go toward the project next year. Downtown Johnstown is also hoping to receive contributions from Monroe Township and the Babcock Foundation, among other entities.

Roberts likens the existing cupola to a dog house, estimating it as 10 by 10 feet square and 15 feet tall. The exterior material consists of aluminum siding.

"If you go up, there's an attic above the balcony in the opera house," he said. "When you get up there, you look at construction. It's like it's sitting on the roof. It doesn't appear to be stable. Looking from the construction, it has been up there 40 to 50 years. It wouldn't pass codes today."

Originally, the cupola was a sealed face -- like a piece of wood, Roberts said.

"We're looking at putting windows up there. Copper was probably used when it was built originally, probably a wood or copper gutter system.

"We're looking at replicating material that makes sense, that wouldn't cause a maintenance problem," he said.

Roberts was originally drafted to climb in the existing cupola because he knows someone who operates a bell-making company in Cincinnati.

"I was asked to go look at it to identify markings to see who made the bell," he said. "There were no marking. The only thing with a date was the graffiti that was from 1940. It looked like kids from Alexandria got up there."

The bell itself is interesting, Roberts said, because it's made of steel and it's large, spanning four feet across at the base.

"It's kind of unusual," he said. "We'd like to bring it down and let everyone see it. We need to seal it. It has some surface rust in it now."

Village manager Sarah Phillips said the idea is to take the bell out and have it on display at ground level.

Downtown Johnstown is first trying to generate funds for the renovation, but those plans could be revised pending its success.

"We may start talking to material providers and people who can provide labor," Roberts said. "We'll see what donations we can get that way."

Downtown Johnstown, which was was formed early last year as part of a process that allows the village to seek grant funds for downtown infrastructure improvements, is also considering other fundraising possibilities such as a farmer's market.

If enough contributions are generated, Roberts said, the project would begin in the spring.

Downtown Johnstown, Inc. has an account at Johnstown's National City Bank, where contributions can be made for the renovation.

"All donations are appreciated and tax deductible," Roberts said.