Parade-goers also can visit Grand Theater

STOP BY THE GRAND — Scott Dressel, president of the Grand Theater Restoration Project, welcomes visitors to stop at the Grand Theater at 121 S. Fourth St., Steubenville, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, the day of Steubenville’s Christmas parade, which begins at noon. The lobby, in which Dressel is standing, will be open as will the museum. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — Visitors heading to downtown Steubenville on Saturday for the Sights & Sounds of Christmas: Nutcracker Magic 2018 Parade are welcome to stop in at the Grand Theater at 121 S. Fourth St., too, to come in from out of the cold and take a little look around.

“The Grand Theater lobby and the museum will be open Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. as part of the Steubenville Christmas parade,” explained Scott Dressel, president of the Grand Theater Restoration Project.

Visitors also can check out progress being made two doors down on the restoration of the Wurlitzer theater organ that was in the theater, Dressel said, noting it was the original organ installed in 1924 and returned here three years ago after being sold in 1988. Getting to hear Joe Humpe play something on it might be an opportunity that presents itself after the parade, according to Dressel.

There is no charge to visit the museum, but donations are always welcome.

The lobby is decorated for Christmas, and there are chairs for some limited seating to view some videos from the Dean Martin variety show.

“People can come in and see the lobby and the museum,” Dressel said.

“The coolest thing in the museum is a collection of odds and ends of hat boxes, clothing boxes and containers from various stores that used to be downtown,” he said. That includes the Hub, for instance, and Denmark’s.

“You have to come see them if you want to know what else there is,” he said. “I got some new stuff — a 1949-50 city directory from someone, and it’s really interesting. I’ll have it here on Saturday, and if someone specifically wants me to look something up, I will,” Dressel said.

He also has a 1931 Steuben — “the Steubenville High School yearbook from back when it was still in the Wells School.” That, too, he described as “pretty interesting.”

Dressel added, “One interesting thing I noted is, if I am reading it correctly, is that the football team, even in 1931, not only had an undefeated season, but it looked like no one scored a single point against them either. I thought that was interesting.”

Donations of items for the museum are welcomed.

“We really want to focus on downtown, but I’ll take anything about Steubenville, because the ballroom space — the theme is Memory Lane — eventually we’ll have larger photographs of things that used to be here and some things that still are, but really we’re focusing on things that people tend to reminisce about a lot,” Dressel said.

“There are so many things people talk about that are no longer here that I wanted to have a place people could come and walk around and talk about them while they’re enjoying whatever other event happens to be going on here,” he said. “It’s like saving the lost history of Steubenville. Obviously the Jefferson County Historical Society Museum does a great job of that, far better than we will do. This is more pictorial as opposed to substance and things, and I think focusing on downtown shopping is because people tend to find it really interesting. I know I do,” he said. “Some day, if time travel is invented, we’ll have a time travel booth up there, and you can travel back to downtown Steubenville in the 1950s,” he said with a chuckle.

While there will be no tours of the theater itself, people can look in through the doors for an idea of the next phase of work.

“We are getting ready to start on the plaster work finally in the main theater,” he explained. “They’re going to start on that big dome above the main floor first. They will finish that and then work down the walls — start down the wall where the pipe organ chambers are because we want to put the pipe organ back in there, and they’ll keep working on the ornamental plaster until it’s finished.”

“It is moving forward all over, slowly,” Dressel said of the restoration.

Major milestones completed since the restoration began in 2010 include the roof; lobby, office and museum; asbestos and mold abatement; new electrical service and heat in the main theater; a front facade; work on the seoncd-floor ballroom, which is halfway completed; and restoration on the pipe organ.

A 501c3 nonprofit, the Grand is owned by the Steubenville Historic Landmarks Foundation, a private volunteer-run nonprofit.

As portions of the theater are completed, they will be available for public use, according to promotional material, as is the lobby and museum room today. Events of up to 150 people are allowed.

For information, call (740) 632-2899 or visit www.istoricsteubenville.org or Facebook at Grand Theater for the Performing Arts Steubenville Ohio.

“It’s warm so come in and get warmed up. It’s going to be cold (Saturday during the parade) so that’ll be nice and it’s a nice spot to stand,” Dressel said.

“Maybe next year, if the first level ballroom is done, we will rent out that space along the front. There’s a nice platform up there with windows. You could put tables and chairs in and have a private event for somebody, say if a business wanted to rent it for the parade,” he said.

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