Local arts museum started at the Grand

STEUBENVILLE – Scott Dressel had just one request for Malven Lilly of the Jefferson County Historical Association Museum Thursday afternoon.

“Please write down all of this information you have collected over the years. You have a great deal of knowledge about the performing artists who grew up in Jefferson County and moved on to fame. You need to write it down so we can share the information about the performing arts in our area,” said Dressel, president of the board of directors for the Grand Theater for the Performing Arts Restoration Project.

Lilly and Linda Wells of the historical association museum on Franklin Avenue brought copies of photos and stories about the performing artists of Jefferson County of past years to the Grand Theater for display in a future theater museum next to the theater.

According to Dressel, “we will set up a temporary museum in our office this summer. The photos and stories will be displayed on our office walls until we can create a permanent museum in an adjacent store.”

“There is a great deal of history of the performing arts in this area. There is a lot more to the history than many people may think. We will be holding our Hometown Celebration in June and will hopefully draw some attention to people from here who went on to do some amazing work,” Dressel said.

“We can use some good public relations and this is a chance to celebrate the history of the city,” Dressel added.

“We brought copies of photos and articles about Nina Goehring McGovern of Steubenville who was an internationally known violinist and harpist. There is a photo of Jeff Hatcher of Steubenville who is now a playwright in Minneapolis. And here is a photo and story about the Singing Boys of America who started in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the 1930s,” explained Lilly.

“Sarah May Endich was a vocalist with the Boston Pops and of course we have Luigi who was a renowned dancer and choreographer. And there is Robert Urich of Toronto and Eleanor Giles who taught English and drama at Steubenville High School and performed in summer stock theater. She appeared in the ‘Song of Bernadette’ on off Broadway in New York,” continued Lilly.

“And here is a photo of Dorothy Sloop who was the inspiration for the song, ‘Hang On Sloopy’. Her father was the person who chose the organ that was originally here in the Grand Theater, Lilly related.

“We have reached out to the community for anyone who may have a photo or article about a performing artist from past years. We just want to copy the photo or article so we can share it with the community. This area was rich in the performing arts and we want to make today’s generation aware of what was here years ago,” noted Lilly.

Lilly said the Jefferson County Historical Museum on Franklin Street will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 14, and Dressel said the Grand Theater also will be open that day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It is the final day of the Hometown Celebration. We will have a kids’ orchestra performing Dean Martin songs in the theater lobby. And at 2 p.m., tours of the theater will be available for $25 a person. Visitors can see our new office and museum area, the brand new windows we just installed on the second and third floors of the front of the theater and some of the original theater equipment on display in the lobby,” according to Dressel.

“When we receive our $140,000 from the state capital budget for education, work investment as well arts and cultural projects, we will start on our next big project this year, which is the installation of heating and cooling in the theater. We are moving forward with restoring this beautiful old theater that will bring people back to the downtown,” said Dressel.

“We continue to search for funding for the theater sign and marquee. Once that is done the front of the theater will be nearly complete. We are slowly bringing the historical look back to this section of our downtown. We have a great history in downtown Steubenville and I am seeing a lot of people stop by today to check out our work and to talk about the downtown of their youth. The front of the theater looks more authentic with the original brick wall,” Dressel said.

“Our next big project under consideration is renovating one of the two ball rooms. That will allow us to hold small events inside of the building. It has been a lot of work so far but every year we raise more funds for the project. That is encouraging. We are now approaching the point where we will need large chunks of money in order to move the work forward on the theater ceiling and interior walls. If we can keep getting funding every year the work will go faster,” stated Dressel.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstaronline.com)