Crandall Foundation Gift Puts Stambaugh Campaign Past $2M

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The fundraising effort to support renovating much of Stambaugh Auditorium hit an important milestone Friday – $2 million – with a donation from the J. Ford Crandall Memorial Foundation.

The foundation donated $50,000 to the restoration of the building’s facade and Fifth Avenue entrance.

“People are effusive about Stambaugh Auditorium. They’ve had all these life experiences here, from the time they were young. Everybody wants to support this,” said Terry Cloonan, president of the Stambaugh Auditorium board of directors. “Our community probably isn’t as well-endowed as many, so the fact that we have so many resources coming behind this is really something rewarding and exciting.”

The foundation, administered by the Mahoning County Probate Court, was created by the last will and testament of J. Ford Crandall, a cousin of the venue’s creator, Henry Stambaugh. It was Stambaugh’s vision to create a public space for entertainment. 

“It adds to the fabric of society. It brings people together. It’s a place we can be proud of. When we bring family, friends, relatives to town, it’s a showpiece. It lets people know that we’re a civilized society,” said Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Robert N. Rusu Jr. 

Nearly everyone in the community has memories of Stambaugh Auditorium, he continued. For Rusu, some of his earliest memories of the venue were coming with his grandfather to see swing bands, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Rusu also officiated t his son’s wedding in Christman Memorial Hall on the auditorium’s top floor.

“Their vision and their generosity made this possible,” he said. “Obviously, there was Henry Stambaugh but also, though he’s may be lesser known, J. Ford Crandall. Both felt the need to make a mark on Youngstown. Their legacy was made through their last will and testament, which comes through the probate court.”

For the milestone to be reached through a gift from Crandall Foundation, Cloonan said, speaks to the history of the auditorium, which opened in 1926.

“We have these voices from the past coming back to support it. It’s just fabulous,” he said. “It reinforces the tradition in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley just how important community is to everyone. Our industrial leaders all recognized that and we’re all better for it.”

Work on the restoration project is expected to begin in spring 2021, Cloonan said, as Stambaugh Auditorium officials work to raise the full $5 million before beginning work. The biggest effort will be to restore the staircase facing Fifth Avenue, which served as the building’s original entrance.

Rendering of the new entrance and steps.

What stands today will be razed and rebuilt with “historically guided materials” and in accordance to standards from Ohio’s Historic Preservation Office and the National Register of Historic Places, to which the building was named in 1984.

“The steps are really in serious need of replacement. It’s a safety issue. We want to start [in 2021] and we’re hoping to do it all in one swoop, but if necessary we’ll phase it in as we can afford it,” Cloonan said. 

Other work to be done includes reconstructing the building’s retaining walls, cleaning the facade, adding new exterior lighting and restoring the metalwork at the Fifth Avenue entrance. Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2021 or in early 2022.

“We were fortunate to have a lot of wealth in this town in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. That started to wane a bit, but we’re starting to come back,” Rusu said. “It’ll never be back at the scale it was, but we’re back. It’s showing that Youngstown is resilient, that we’re here to stay and we’ve got a lot of good things to offer.”

Pictured: Stambaugh Auditorium CEO Matt Pagac, cheif strategic officer Mike McGiffin, chief development officer JoAnn Stock and board president Terry Cloonan joined J. Ford Crandall Memorial Foundation distribution committee members Kevin Chiu and Andrew Bresko and Judge Robert N. Rusu Jr.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.