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  • The Garst Museum

Jones Family Honored with Heritage Award

Each year, the Darke County Historical Society recognizes an outstanding citizen or organization for their distinguished contributions or actions of unusual excellence that connect people with Darke County’s past with the Heritage Award. The award is presented during the annual meeting of the historical society at Garst Museum. This year’s award winners are Mike and Sherri Jones.


The Jones family has been a longtime supporter of Greenville and has taken great pride and interest in preserving the history of the community’s buildings. Their most recent preservation project was bringing the Wayne Theatre back to the prominence it once held.

Mike harkened back to his days in high school when he was a projectionist for the State Theater Opera House. After graduating and leaving the community for a short time to serve in the United States Army, Mike remembers coming home and finding the theater torn down. The demolition of that building made a lasting impression. “I could not believe they tore down the State Theater. That was a cool building,” he said. Jones gave the history of how the building was built by Frank McWhinney and Memorial Hall was built by Henry St. Clair. The two pillars of the community had an agreement. McWhinney’s building hosts professional entertainers, and St. Clair Memorial Hall hosts amateurs.

The razing of the State Theater left an indelible mark on Mike that has guided him in recent years. Jones said, “Even as a young kid I thought there should be some old fogey who had some extra cash with the availability and save that building. In the 70s, old is bad and new is awesome. That’s what they wanted to do. I never really agreed with that and most of you guys know I buy old houses and fix them up. I never sell them because I love them too much. I rent them out.”

Mike expressed his love for history, “You know where we are going if you know where we came from. And when you discard history, that’s a shame. And they discarded the opera house. Now we have a great parking lot.”

He shared that the Wayne Theatre was ready to be demolished, and a friend came to him after taking the property to court to get the liens removed. “She called me up and said, ‘Hey, are you interested in buying the Wayne Theatre?’” He talked to his kids and wife and felt the community needed it.

Mike explained he purchased and restored it for the community in order to give Darke County residents a place to go that is close to home. Before the Wayne Theatre reopened, families and young couples going on dates would have to devote five or six hours to see a movie and go out to eat. Not only were they traveling the highways at night, they were taking business out of the county. He shared they renovated everything from the roof to the floor joists. Only the outside walls were left standing. The renovation took two years to complete.

Although Wayne Theatre is the Jones family’s most recent renovation project, Eileen Litchfield, chair of the board development and annual meeting planning committee, explained the award was presented to Mike and Sherri for their preservation of other historic buildings in the community. They are responsible for restoring properties like St. Clair Manor, Bickel House, and the home where Annie Oakley passed away to their original glory. The Joneses have also renovated over 40 other properties.

Clay Johnson, president and CEO of Garst Museum, said, “It was an honor to recognize Mike and Sherri Jones for all their work in saving numerous historic properties in our county. During our Annual Membership meeting, it was fascinating to hear them share the stories and passion behind their family's drive to do so much for the community. The Joneses have successfully saved many of our historical properties that should leave a lasting legacy for many years to come. I know the Wayne Theatre renovation has brought back some wonderful memories and is sure to create many new ones.”

The first Heritage Award was presented in 1983, and numerous individuals and organizations have earned the award, including the most recent award recipients GreeneVille Daughters of the American Revolution, John Marchal, Allen Hauberg, Dick Brown, and Friends of Fort Jefferson.

Caption: Mike and Sherri Jones accepted the Darke County Historical Society’s (DCHS) Heritage Award from Dr. Steve Gruber, Chair of DCHS.


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