Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Henry H. Stambaugh

Henry H. Stambaugh

Most of us at from Youngstown have been to Stambaugh Auditorium at some point in our lives — children’s concerts, graduations, weddings, speakers, Youngstown Symphony concerts, Monday Musical performances, and popular concerts. One that I missed at which I would have loved to been present was Bruce Springsteen’s performance, when he sang “Youngstown.” His song about the death of Youngstown’s steel industry was sung in the house built by the wealth of one of Youngstown’s steel magnates.

Henry Hamilton. Stambaugh, was born in Brier Hill Nov. 24, 1858 to John and Caroline Stambaugh. His father was born there as well on March 8, 1827. It seems that someone so involved in the Valley’s steel history was born in the heart of it. John Stambaugh worked closely with David Tod in the early development of Tod’s coal and iron industries in Brier Hill.

Henry H. Stambaugh was educated in the Youngstown schools and then went on to college at Cornell University, graduating in 1881. He returned to follow his father in working in the coal and iron industry. He served as secretary, treasurer, and president of the Brier Hill Iron and Coal Company, founded the Brier Hill Steel Company and later served as a director of Youngstown Sheet and Tube. He also was on the boards of many of the city’s banks and active in civic and philanthropic affairs in the city. In addition to his residence at 1051 Belmont Avenue, he owned farms in Canfield and Liberty Township.

His death came as a shock to all of Youngstown. He died suddenly on January 4, 1919 from unexplained causes in New Orleans, where he had stopped for a visit on the way back from California to Youngstown. He was laid to rest in simple services at St. John’s Episcopal church with burial at Oak Hill Cemetery.

Wisely, Stambaugh had written his will two months earlier and several of his bequests left a lasting impact on Youngstown. His farm in Canfield was given to establish a Boy Scout Camp, Camp Stambaugh. His farm in Liberty Township was donated to Youngstown to create a park and recreation area and is now the Henry Stambaugh Golf Course. He gave sizable gifts to the Community Chest and Youngstown Foundations, enabling each to expand their work.

Perhaps the most remembered part of his will was the funds set aside for construction of a public auditorium for the people of Youngstown. He named as trustees of this fund John Stambaugh, Asael E. Adams, Rollin S. Steese, William B. Hall and Phillip J. Thompson (president of Stambaugh-Thompson). They met on August 3, 1920, forming the Henry H. Stambaugh Auditorium Association. They elected John Stambaugh president of the association. A site was chosen for construction and the auditorium was opened in December 6, 1926. The construction of this magnificent building, which has undergone recent restoration efforts, cost $1.5 million (about $25 million today). His mother was even remembered in the naming of the street north of the auditorium “Caroline.”

Henry H. Stambaugh not only helped build the steel industry but one of the most iconic structures of the city that has served as a center of cultural events for nearly 100 years. Thank you, Mr. Stambaugh.

To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!

Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown–Stambaugh Auditorium


Stambaugh Auditorium, by Nyttend — Own Work, Public Domain

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?