Local History & Value
Edison Community College...
By Brittany Martino
Humanities 121, Edison Community College
November 16, 2011
Photos courtesy of
Greg Seevers as St. Clair Memorial Hall celebrates its 100th
Anniversary. See below for Editor’s Comments.
For my individual project, I visited the Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall
in Greenville, Ohio. I’ve been there many times throughout my junior
high and high school years and even performed there on stage for
concerts. But I have never really known the background and history of
I’ll begin with the man who knew the value of a good education, Henry
St. Clair. Henry was born May 17, 1852 in New York but in 1872, the St.
Clairs moved to Greenville and opened what eventually proved to be
Darke County’s most successful wholesale grocery businesses. Henry
served on the School Board and also was a city councilman. He dreamed
of a building for educational and cultural purposes and wanted to build
it during his lifetime for Greenville. Unfortunately, he died October
7, 1908 before the construction began. In his will, Henry noted: “I
will bequeath to the Board of Education of the City of Greenville,
Ohio, the sum of $100,000 to be used for the purpose of erecting a
Memorial Hall for the use and betterment of the public schools in any
manner in which said board may think most practicable and beneficial to
The Memorial Hall was not completed and dedicated until May 3, 1912.
The main entrance of this historic building is four steps above ground
level, and opens into a memorial rotunda, 26 ft. by 46 ft. in height.
The entire lobby, stairs, column bases, door casings and caps are made
of polished Vermont marble. The auditorium together with balcony and
boxes has a seating capacity of at least 700 people. The auditorium
dimensions are 64 ft. square and 48 ft. in height, patterned after the
beautiful Maxine Elliot Theatre of New York City. On the first floor
there are three large rooms which were used for classrooms, but today
this area is the Anna Bier Gallery and Civic room, where the Greenville
Board of Education holds meetings. Many of the other rooms are used
today for the Junior High School band/orchestra. The basement was once
a large gymnasium and manual training, but today this area houses
school offices and a computer center. Also the basement is used for
book storage for the school system.
Anna Bier was a woman that was well known in Greenville because she
dedicated her life to her teaching. She was born in the house on East
Fourth St. Anna became a familiar figure in Greenville as she walked
from school to school “usually burdened with a basket that was a
constant source of surprise and wonder to her young students.” She
taught art in the Greenville public schools on all grade levels for a
period of 36 years. In a booklet published by the Greenville Art Guild
many years ago, one of her students is quoted as saying, “She gave her
students the prideful thrill of creating with their own hands and
imagination something of their very own. She heightened the thrill of
accomplishment, as her criticism urged us to strive for perfection. She
taught us to see and to understand what we saw. She tried to teach us
In 1937 Anna Bier’s work was exhibited in the lobby of the Henry St.
Clair Memorial Hall in connection with the Greenville Art Guild’s
opening of the 1938-39 season. This was the first time that Anna
expressed her hopes for “a place in Greenville where people of all
colors, all creeds, and all walks of life could work for the
development of artistic skills and higher cultural standards for our
community.” Anna died in 1939. The idea of the Darke County Center for
the Arts was conceived by a small group of citizens in 1978 who wanted
Anna Bier’s plans to go forward. The dedication of the Anna Bier
Gallery and Civic Room in the Hall was one of the early accomplishments
of this committee. It is a permanent tribute to a teacher with a vision
that still touches people today.
The Darke County Center for the Arts is a community arts council whose
purpose is to promote all art forms within the county and to expand
opportunities for cultural enrichment. DCCA is also committed to the
restoration and preservation of the Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall as an
important cultural center. After it opened in 1912, the best shows from
all over the country came into the Memorial Hall theatre. A separate
hall manager booked not only theatre but lectures, musical groups,
political speakers, and all types of professional performers. For
thirteen years, since January of 1985, the Memorial Hall Restoration
committee of DCCA has focused on the talk of restoring this exceptional
building to its original glory.
In my perspective, I believe that the Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall is
definitely related to the study of humanities because the building
itself has so much history and value. One thing that catches my eye
right away, along with many others, are the three stained glass windows
at the front of the main entrance above the foyer. You cannot help but
stop and gaze in amazement at the detail and vivid color they contain.
It is said that Ella St. Clair gave those three glass windows as a gift
to the building. From the inside looking out, the panel on the left
signifies Literature. The Latin phrase “Cogito-Ergo-Sum” written across
the bottom – I think therefore I am. The second panel, in the middle,
represents Labor. The Latin phrase “Vitae-Via-Virtus” written across
the bottom – Manly excellence along the road of life. The third panel
expresses Art. The Latin phrase “Non-Sine-Labore” written across the
bottom – Nothing without hard work.
These windows show and tell, through much symbolism, the standards that
Henry St. Clair wanted to bring to Greenville. We can definitely see
that the art standard has shown through the restoration of these
magnificent windows. Literature, Labor, and Art is what Memorial
Hall is all about.
Editor’s note: Last
fall I taught “Art in the Humanities,” an introductory level course at
the Edison Darke County Campus. Among the many projects the students
addressed were different forms of art, from painting and television, to
visits to DCCA events, Memorial Hall, Bears Mill, Garst Museum and
Shawnee Prairie. The purpose was to discuss their evaluation of how the
assignments related to “art” and/or the “humanities.” Some of the best
reports will be presented, with the student’s permission, on County
News Online. The opinions expressed in these reports have not been
altered in any manner.
St. Clair Memorial
Hall will be celebrating its Centennial Anniversary on May 4, 5 and 6,
2012, 100 years after it was dedicated in 1912. Darke County Center for
the Arts, along with Greenville City School District, Garst Museum,
Main Street Greenville, Daughters of the American Revolution and other
organizations and individuals are planning a community celebration in
honor of Henry and Ella St. Clair, who made this historic landmark
possible. Watch for more information to come.