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Stambaugh Auditorium Association marks 100 years

Terry Cloonan, current board president of the  Henry H. Stambaugh Auditorium Association, leads the 100th anniversary commemorative board meeting Aug. 3. (Submitted photo)

YOUNGSTOWN – On Monday, Aug. 3 at 10 a.m., the members of the Board of Directors of the Henry H. Stambaugh Auditorium Association met to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Association’s first board meeting which took place on Aug. 3, 1920. At that time, the original trustees met to begin the process of carrying out the final wishes of Henry H. Stambaugh and to begin planning for the construction of Stambaugh Auditorium which opened in December of 1926.

The commemorative meeting, which was presented as a hybrid event, was held in the Jeanne D. Tyler Grand Ballroom at Stambaugh Auditorium and was also live-streamed to a virtual audience. A video highlighting founder Henry H. Stambaugh and the events leading up to that first board meeting was shown. A recording of the event along with the historical video may be viewed on the Stambaugh Auditorium YouTube channel or at www.stambaughauditorium.com.

Henry Hamilton Stambaugh, son of John and Caroline Hamilton Stambaugh, was born Nov. 24, 1858, in Youngstown. After studying locally, he graduated from Cornell University, class of 1881. As a young businessman, he served the iron and coal industry and worked with the Brier Hill Iron and Coal Company first as secretary, then treasurer, and finally as president of the company. He was a founder of the Brier Hill Steel Company and served as a director of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company.

Stambaugh, one of the city’s most influential citizens, was not only an industrialist and businessman but also a philanthropist who cared deeply about the people of the city of Youngstown and surrounding communities. He died Jan. 4, 1919 at the age of 60. In his will, he named as trustees John Stambaugh, Asael E. Adams, Rollin S. Steese, William B. Hall and Phillip J. Thompson and charged them with the task of “securing a convenient and proper site and erecting thereon an auditorium suitable and adequate for the needs of the residents and citizens of the City of Youngstown.” The auditorium would be used for “the enjoyment, pleasure, entertainment and education of the community residing in Youngstown and contiguous thereto.” These final wishes of Stambaugh became the mission of the Henry H. Stambaugh Auditorium Association.

Terry Cloonan, current board president, introduced a resolution affirming the current board’s commitment to the mission and to preserving and maintaining Stambaugh Auditorium for generations to come. Cloonan said, “As members of the board we are committed to preserving the legacy left by Henry H. Stambaugh. It is our duty to preserve and maintain not only this fabulous building, but to also preserve the founding mission of the organization.” In addition to Cloonan, current members of the Stambaugh Auditorium Board of Directors, who unanimously approved the resolution, are Jeanne Simeone, Vice President; David Konik, Treasurer; and Michael Crist, Mark Gasser, Cheryl McArthur, Scott Schulick, Tracie Stephens and John Yerian III. “While these are certainly challenging times, we are committed to sustaining Stambaugh Auditorium and preserving the mission for the next century and beyond,” Cloonan added.

In his remarks, Matt Pagac, Stambaugh Auditorium’s chief executive and operating officer, noted the parallels that were taking place 100 years ago when the world was recovering from the Spanish Flu pandemic. Pagac noted the impact that the COVID – 19 pandemic has had on Stambaugh Auditorium including the cancellation of 105 events in 120 days. Pagac said, “Our staff is working every day to ensure that the cultural institution that is Stambaugh Auditorium will continue long into the future, far past the COVID-19 pandemic and our 100th Anniversary in 2026.” Some of the changes that Stambaugh Auditorium has implemented include:

Reduction in staffing levels and operating expenses.

Utilization of funding received through the CARES Economic Relief Plan.

Working with local health officials to develop operating protocol to safely hold events.

Adjusting the business model to offer virtual and live-streamed programming and options for hybrid events,

Exploring partnership opportunities such as shared services with other cultural organizations.

Pagac concluded, “In many ways, a period of difficulty and sadness led to the efforts of Henry Stambaugh to help the community he loved, which made Stambaugh Auditorium and many other Youngstown institutions possible. The struggles we face today will be overcome by opportunity and innovation both here at Stambaugh Auditorium and throughout the city that Henry loved.”

JoAnn Stock, Stambaugh’s chief development officer, acknowledged the impact that the pandemic has had and noted that with continued closures and bans on mass gatherings, the arts and culture sector has been especially hard hit. Stock noted the generosity of the community in supporting and sustaining Stambaugh Auditorium over the years and said, “Support from the community will be more important than ever as we work through these difficult times.”

Stock highlighted the community-funded projects that were undertaken to preserve and renovate the Jeanne D. Tyler Grand Ballroom, the Anne Christman Memorial Hall, and the E.M. Skinner pipe organ in the concert hall. Stock said, “We are now focusing on raising the funds needed to return the monumental staircase, grand entrance and façade of the building to its original splendor and hope to break ground for this significant project in the Spring of 2021,” she added.

In addition to these capital projects, donor support has been vital to help to sustain operating expenses as well. Stock noted that over the years, with the support of funds raised by volunteer groups such as the Monday Musical Club and Stambaugh Pillars as well as support from the general community, the organization has been able to help to provide programming for the enjoyment, pleasure, entertainment and education of the community. Stock said, “With the support of our donors, Stambaugh Auditorium has been able to provide enjoyment and create lasting memories for thousands of individuals and families who have experienced events at Stambaugh Auditorium and with the support of our community, we will continue to do so for generations to come.”

Stambaugh Auditorium is a non-profit public auditorium. The centerpiece of the complex is the Concert Hall which has a seating capacity of 2,553 and is renowned for its near perfect acoustics. The auditorium also features a 9,700-square-foot ballroom (Jeanne D. Tyler Grand Ballroom), a recital hall (Anne K. Christman Memorial Hall), and a formal garden at the southern end of the building, all of which can be rented for public, business, or private functions. The venue welcomes national and international performers on a regular basis while also hosting local and regional events many of which use the Florence and Ward Beecher Box Office to sell and distribute tickets. Stambaugh Auditorium was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

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