If you grew up in Youngstown or surrounding areas, you might remember going to Children’s Concerts at Stambaugh Auditorium, to hear the Youngstown Symphony perform a classical concert. In our classes prior to the concert, we would learn about the different instruments in a symphony orchestra, the sound they would make, and where they where placed on the stage. And then we would dress up in our best clothes, take a school bus up to Stambaugh Auditorium and see it all happen. I still think one of the most wonderful things about going to a symphony concert is seeing music made. A year ago, I was part of a chorus singing the Beethoven Ninth Symphony “Ode to Joy” and as exhilarating as the singing was, sitting just behind the orchestra and watching this incredible music being made was sheer delight!
Part of what made going to the Children’s Concerts such an amazing experience was going into Stambaugh Auditorium, where the concerts were then held (DeYor Performing Arts Center was still the Warner Theater at that time). The main entrance off of Fifth Avenue looks like the entrance to a Greek temple with fluted ionic columns. Then we filed into what seemed like an enormous Concert Hall, which if I remember correctly had red velour seating. We had to sit quietly and applaud when the orchestra entered. The maestro explained the music they were going to perform and then we were bathed in the rich sound, compliments of the hall’s architecture and acoustics.
I can’t remember going there but one other time, when I was in high school, when Kathryn Kuhlman used to conduct services there on Sundays. She had a healing ministry and I think we were curious to see whether any miracles would occur while we were there!
You might say that Stambaugh Auditorium was built by steel (or at least iron). It was the result of a trust set up after the death of Henry H. Stambaugh. Stambaugh was born in the Brier Hill area and took an early interest in the Brier Hill Iron and Coal Company along with the Tod family. Stambaugh served as secretary, treasurer, and eventually president of the company. The Auditorium opened December 5, 1926, having been constructed at a cost of over a million dollars.
The Concert Hall seats over 2500, and features a 59 rank E.M. Skinner Pipe Organ that was restored in 2011. There are also several other event venues in the building. The Jeanne D. Tyler Grand Ballroom can accommodate dinners of up to 550 in an 8800 square foot room. The Anne K. Christman Memorial Hall serves as a great location for chamber concerts, recitals and smaller weddings. There are lobbies as well as an outdoor garden that may also be used for events. Stambaugh Auditorium continues to be a center of social life in Youngstown with concerts (Three Dog Night, Steven Curtis Chapman, The Three Tenors, and ZZ Top are among their upcoming events), as well as weddings, proms and high school graduations.
I was encouraged to hear of continuing restoration efforts. A major project is restoration work on the Fifth Avenue steps. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, being added in 1984 and located within blocks of Youngstown State University. Preserving and renewing this treasure seems an important part of bringing the best of the old Youngstown built on its steel-making heritage into the new Youngstown of the twenty-first century.
What are your memories of Stambaugh Auditorium?