Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall is a local treasure, admired and envied by other communities large and small. Upon his death in 1908, St. Clair, a wholesale grocer bequeathed $100,000 to be used to erect a “Memorial Hall for the use and betterment of the public schools.”
Construction began in 1910, and the structure was completed in 1912 at a total cost of $135,000. (Henry’s widow, Ella St. Clair, donated the additional funds required.) Through the years, the hall has seen political speakers and lecturers as well as hosted professional and amateur performing artists and many school functions. All of that activity took a physical toll; an effort to restore the beloved building to its former grandeur was undertaken in 1985 and successfully completed in 1991.
But wear and tear on the much-used structure did not end with the completion of that restoration project, and shabbiness once again began to invade the grand space. However, St. Clair Memorial Hall is once again being returned to its original impressive state of glory. The current refurbishing, about a month from completion, has reached a really exciting phase where upon entering the auditorium one not only instantly realizes that much-needed improvements have already occurred but can also imagine the impressive soon-to-be-completed final result.
Simply seeing the magnificence once again emerging in the hundred-year-old structure is an exciting prospect; but local workers appreciate the opportunity to actually contribute to this project. “It’s an exciting privilege to work on this historical landmark, making it look new again,” stated Micah Coblentz, a Greenville elementary school teacher who moonlights as a painter.
All supplies and labor that could be obtained locally were obtained locally. McCabe Painting is adding color to the walls that were repaired by Nealeigh Plastering; G & G Flooring is installing the carpeting and tile. Brumbaugh Construction will refurbish the impressive front doors, using as much of the original materials as possible, and will also install an additional brass railing in the lobby’s central stairway. Bud’s Electric has also contributed expertise to the project.
Original restoration colors have been maintained throughout the building; things look the same, except better. Painting in the auditorium is completed, and the lobby will soon be finished. Durable and lovely vinyl-enhanced tile in a neutral shade of blue has been installed in the area where the impressive and comfortable new seats will be placed; subtly attractive blue carpeting tiles will soon cover the aisle ways. Cutting edge high-tech theatrical lighting that will serve the needs of all who use Memorial Hall for many years to come is being hung; other new equipment will soon be in place.
The walls in the Anna Bier Civic Room and the Anna Bier Gallery have been re-painted in an evocatively-named shade—Ethereal White; the new blue-flecked carpet is already laid in these oft-used public spaces. New LED lights that will properly illuminate artwork without needing replacement for years will soon be installed in the Gallery. (The Gallery’s old track lighting was moved to the Civic Room where it will also see many years of additional use.)
All of this activity has been made possible by a grant secured through the efforts of our state legislators and administered by the State of Ohio Facilities Construction Commission. Project Manager Matt Jordan says “those people at OFCC couldn’t be nicer to work with,” and also praises the Greenville City School officials overseeing the project for the extra effort they have put forth expediting improvements to St. Clair Memorial Hall during a very busy year of school construction.
After this project is completed, some needs will remain unmet. “Although $500,000 is a lot of money and appreciated more than words can express, it’s still not enough to do everything that needs to be done,” Matt said. “But it provides a great start to what is a never-ending process to preserve and protect the great legacy that lies within this incredible building.”
Exciting stuff is happening at St. Clair Memorial Hall; Henry and Ella would be proud!
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.