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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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Lotus ware Laconian vase, ca. 1890, from the Museum of Ceramics
Lotus Ware Laconian vase produced by the Knowles, Taylor and Knowles Co., ca. 1890 From the collections of the Museum of Ceramics, East Liverpool, Ohio

Playing in the Arts

This legacy project documents five arts organizations that reflect the Mahoning Valley's rich tradition of support to the arts through its industry, playhouses, museums, and music halls.

The Museum of Ceramics in East Liverpool occupies the former city post office, built in 1909, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Open as the museum since 1980, the renovated building interior's solid-oak trim, ornately decorated domed ceilings, and marble and terrazzo floors provide a stunning atmosphere to display an extensive array of wares produced by East Liverpool potteries, especially yellow ware and Rockingham pottery. More than 90 percent of East Liverpool's population were employed in the manufacture of ceramics in 1900. Museum dioramas show how ceramics were created; other exhibits depict the growth and development of the community and its people. Among the museum's most prized pieces are its Lotus Ware bone china, noted for its pure white lustrous finish, graceful shapes, and exquisite detailing.

Heralded as the "finest theater every built," the Warner Brothers opened the Warner Theater in Youngstown in 1931, with the movie, "The Millionaire." The theater was built by Harry, Jack, and Albert as a memorial to their brother, Sam, who died in 1928. Sam had seen the future of "talking" pictures, and had encouraged his family to pursue this new venture. The brothers had grown up in Youngstown with their émigré parents, who had fled Russian persecution of Jews in Poland. The building, designed by the renown theater architects Rapp and Rapp, featured Carpathian elm, Italian olive wood, Australian and African cherry wood, Madagascar ebony, burled English walnut, bronzes, Egyptian brass chandeliers, tapestries, oil paintings, and art objects. In 1968, the theater closed and was threatened with demolition when local residents, Mr. And Mrs. Edward W. Powers, provided $250,000 to purchase the building for the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra. After a restoration, in 1969 the building reopened as the Symphony Center/Edward W. Powers Auditorium with a gala performance of "Die Fledermaus."

Successful Youngstown industrialist, Joseph G. Butler Jr., hired the New York architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White in 1917 to design a building to hold his collection of American art, assembled between 1917 and 1919, including the Winslow Homer work, Snap the Whip. The Butler Institute of American Art was the first building in the United States designed specifically to house American art. Considered an architectural landmark, the classically designed institute features Georgian and Carrara marble. During the 20th century, several wings have been added to the institute, which now houses more than 10,000 permanent works of art.

The Henry H. Stambaugh Auditorium was built for the residents of Youngstown in 1926 following the 1919 death of Stambaugh, who had been a business leader and philanthropist, dedicated to improving the lives of community members. His will and testament bequeathed funds to build an auditorium which Youngstown residents could use for entertainment, enjoyment and education. Designed by Helme & Corbett of New York, the Italian Renaissance building cost$1.5 million. Its acoustically superb auditorium, which seats 2,600 people, has been the setting for many concerts by renown musicians and singers, often invited by the Monday Morning Club. The building's 9,700 square foot ballroom was originally designed as an exhibition hall, but was quickly converted with the addition of a wooden floor. Known as "the chatterbox," the ballroom was popular for weekly dances during the Big Band era of the 1920s and 1930s.

The Youngstown Playhouse is one of the country's oldest, largest and most respected community theaters. It was founded by a "society" group, the Youngstown Players, in the 1920s . The first playhouse, which seated 165 people, was made by converting an 1885 barn, originally built for race horses. When playhouse membership reached 1,400 by 1940, the players raised $30,000 to build a new theater. However, they used the money to purchase a small movie house that had become available, and converted it for live theater. The 250-seat Market Street Playhouse opened with a rousing production of "Camille of Roaring Camp" around 1942. During the war years, one of the players, Helen Moyers, was instrumental in directing the players toward becoming an outstanding community theater. Broadway director, Arthur Sitcom, became artistic director, who helped raise the artistic standards. Many of the players trained by him went on to professional theater. In 1959, the players moved into a new two-theater building, The Youngstown Playhouse, on a three-and-one-half acre site renamed Playhouse Lane. The playhouse is the only community theater in Ohio to receive major institution support from the Ohio Arts Council. Its 2000-2001 season runs from September to June.

Documentation includes text descriptions of each legacy, and the Youngstown Players 50th anniversary catalog.

Originally submitted by: James A. Traficant, Jr., Representative (17th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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