Much to my surprise and delight, the strikingly elegant beauty of Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall has become even more evident following the demise of the building that most recently housed Greenville Junior High School. Henry’s bequest to Greenville City School Board was truly a gift for the ages which has served the community beautifully and well for over a century. Generations of local citizens of all demographics have held the building in high esteem, each individual memory adding to the store of diverse reasons for the hallowed standing Memorial Hall holds within uncounted hearts and minds.
Henry’s gift to the school board “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” has housed students and school officials, and welcomed the general public to a broad variety of events including for the past 39 years performances presented by Darke County Center for the Arts. Upkeep of a grand old building can consume vast sums; schools have educational priorities that can and probably should supersede efforts to maintain the artistic and aesthetic qualities that elevate a structure to the revered status that Memorial Hall has attained.
DCCA was established to promote the arts and encourage cultural enrichment, but the organization’s mission statement also includes a commitment to the preservation of Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall as an important cultural center in our community. As the Hall entered a state of noticeable decline several years ago, DCCA led a community effort raising funds to restore the building to its original grandeur; the restoration was completed in 1998 but the need for on-going maintenance and repair is never-ending.
When Darke County Endowment for the Arts was established to receive and invest funds to enable the arts to live forever in our community, preservation of the legacy of Henry St. Clair’s magnificent gift became one of the organization’s primary goals. In addition to providing financial assistance to individuals, organizations, and institutions that further presentation of or education in the arts, the Endowment has contributed to many major improvements at the treasured building including restoration of the Hall’s breathtakingly beautiful stained glass windows and upgrades to the auditorium.
You are probably aware that Greenville City Schools, Darke County Center for the Arts, and Darke County Endowment for the Arts are all sincerely committed to preservation of Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall. You may also realize that each entity has its own agenda for achievement of goals unique to the organization. Decisions made by one group often impact all three organizations; sometimes plans can clash, unintentionally impeding hoped-for progress. So, in order to enhance communication to assure achieving the best possible outcome for the beloved building—and this is the part that you might not know—the Memorial Hall Advisory Committee was formed with the stated mission of assuring that the artistic integrity and cultural heritage embodied within St. Clair Memorial Hall be maintained.
The Advisory Committee has no control over outcomes, but provides a forum for sharing plans, needs, and new ideas affecting the Hall. Current issues include planning for the now unused space formerly housing student classes. As the owner of the building, the school’s needs are of first consideration; however, as a frequent user of the Hall, DCCA has some ideas for possible expansion of arts opportunities. Funds from the Endowment may be required to pay for any changes and improvements, especially those not directly related to the school’s major function to educate the citizens of tomorrow. The Advisory Committee facilitates cooperation and understanding between the school, DCCA, and DCEA for the betterment of all concerned, with each organization’s needs and assets considered while working to contribute to the common good.
So now you know.
Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at email@example.com. 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.