Henry St. Clair would have been pleased had he witnessed the activity at his Memorial Hall last Saturday night. Although his widow Ella donated $35,000 more to complete the structure, Henry’s bequest of $100,000 to be used for “a Memorial Hall for the use and betterment of the public schools in any manner in which said board may think most practicable and beneficial to the public” provided the funds which made possible erection of the stately building that bears his name. And hundreds of members of “the public” certainly benefited from the many uses the Hall served in one short evening.
A Renovation Celebration hosted by Darke County Endowment for the Arts recognized the completion of needed improvements to the revered building; self-guided tours were enhanced by the piano stylings of Mitchell Rawlins resonating in the Main Lobby while in the auditorium songstress Lisa Biales and her trio warmed up for their performance opening Darke County Center for the Arts’ 2015-2016 Artists Series season. Stunning floral arrangements provided by The Ivy League added an appropriately elegant touch, perfectly adorning the Lobby’s central staircase and flanking the stage. The newly painted, re-carpeted, and re-lit Anna Bier Gallery hosted Rosie Huart, whose serene and inspiring work remains on the Gallery walls through October 30.
Henry’s Memorial Hall was busy, bustling, and filled with “beneficial” activity. Attendees enjoyed luscious cupcakes and iced tea provided by A & B Cake and Coffee while counting the ways this building mattered to them. St. Clair Memorial Hall is beloved for many different reasons including its significance as an architectural and artistic treasure; the enduring beauty of the Hall’s extraordinary stained glass windows continue to inspire awe and joy.
A recognition ceremony in the Anna Bier Civic Room honored all those who helped make the renovation possible. Darryl Mehaffie, the local longtime supporter of the arts whose interest and knowledge were instrumental in securing the attention of legislators, introduced Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, Senator Bill Beagle, and Representative Jim Buchy who were lauded for their efforts culminating in the $500,000 grant from Ohio Facilities Construction Commission providing the needed funds to revitalize the Hall. Their remarks in turn praised the community effort that has kept the legacy of St. Clair Memorial Hall alive and growing.
Greenville City Schools Superintendent Doug Fries spoke about the commitment to the project undertaken by school officials even while overseeing three other major projects. Project Manager Matt Jordan reviewed all that was accomplished, recognizing the following vendors who supplied labor and materials necessary to the renovation: Brumbaugh Construction, Bud’s Electric, G & G Floor Fashions, Irvin Seating Company, McCabe Painting Service, Nealeigh Plastering, Rose Brand Stage Curtains, and Vincent Lighting Systems. In addition to thanking Superintendent Fries and his office staff plus Greenville School Treasurer Carla Surber and school employees Shawn Shumaker and JoAnne Burke, Matt expressed his gratitude for the labor of DCCA crew members Ron Asman, Doug Cole, John McKibben, Tory Martin, and Tom Nader, all of whom contributed to the grand and glorious result.
The audience gathered in the auditorium to experience the warmth and grandeur of a performance in this historic space. But first, they witnessed a special presentation; the aforementioned Darryl Mehaffie was surprised and honored by DCCA, who presented the hard-working “retiree” with the William L. Combs Patron of the Arts Award for his exceptional service to the community.
Lisa Biales and her trio then took the stage, her gracious presence and amazing voice aptly demonstrating the worth of St. Clair Memorial Hall as a concert hall. Lisa chatted and sang and played her guitar and won the admiration of almost everyone in attendance, her highly entertaining performance subtly enhanced by deft lighting effects and extraordinary sound engineering now possible in this up-to-date century-old Hall.
Thank you, Henry. Thank you, Ella. And thanks to all those who participated in a glorious night where old memories were fondly recalled and new memories were made, increasing the already vast legacy of our community treasure, Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall.
Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.