The Waite Alumni Association is celebrating the raising of $138,000 to restore its auditorium. On May 22, the alumni were presented a check to the board of education.
Restoration of the theater’s seats are still being sold at $200 apiece, which covers the price of a new rehabbed chair. The goal of alumni association is to raise $150,000.
“We have raised almost enough,” association chairman Shirley Jean Clark said. “We are getting promises for additional funds to make up the difference. We have many chairs available for the public, and they are $200 apiece.”
The 11,927 square feet Waite auditorium, which seats 844, was intact with its original balcony, seats, and stage before the project began. Restoration was to include technological improvements — such as new digital sound and video systems.
“It is the goal of the alumni association to restore the auditorium to the grandeur of the opening, and to be able to use the fundraiser for the seats, and to allow us to do some things with sound systems and curtains,” Clark said. “It’s our goal by the 100th anniversary that it will be totally restored and we can have some kind of major event or presentation there at that time.”
In 2014, the auditorium, like the rest of the school, will be 100 years old, and that same year the alumni association will be celebrating its 50th year. The auditorium renovation is mostly separate from the $20 million OSFC renovation of Waite High, so the alumni have taken on most of the responsibility.
The renovation was also to include structural improvements to the auditorium, including new carpeting, flooring, and plaster.
“The plastering is completed,” said Shirley Jean Clark. “The board of education assisted us by giving us additional funds towards plastering some areas that were discovered and weren’t in that original plan.
“It’s going to be beautiful — all that restored ‘dental work.’ We are currently waiting for all the windows to go in and the painting to be done so all the chairs that we have been renovating and are completed and in storage, will be installed right,” Clark continued.
“We’ve got a couple complications here and there with heating and connecting things, but the people who have worked on it have been tremendous and very capable and thorough. The skylights that we had hoped would be reopened we had to sacrifice because our funds were a little low.”
Fortunately for the association, the board was able to find funds to help with costs.
“I have to be honest — we originally thought that we were going to pick up the cost of plastering and painting, but the board generously switched around a few things, and the architects generously figured out how to get that done for us,” Clark said. “We did some tradeoffs so that we could have that done, but we wanted the public spaces to look good, to look welcoming.”
A sample rehabbed chair has been sitting in Principal David Yenrick’s office, complete with reupholstered cushions, real wood backing, and art deco carvings styled into the leg woodwork. Each seat is partially painted in school colors — purple and gold.
The original chairs have been long gone, and the upholstery was coming apart on the chairs that were in the auditorium before the project began. The auditorium has received its fair share of usage over the past 98 years.
It is not just musicals and plays that are held in the auditorium, but the school holds special presentations. In addition, when air conditioning is turned on at Waite this fall, it could make usage of the auditorium possible during hot days and in the summer.
“They have their presentations and ceremonies and they have their honor society inductions, and just any important event is held in the auditorium,” Clark said.
The OSFC renovation will result in fine arts classrooms located in closer proximity to the auditorium.
“That hall is going to be the arts classes and the music classes, so they won’t have far to come for a program. It will have, hopefully, the access doors to the outside will be renovated enough that we could bring people in there without bringing them through the building,” Clark said.
Clark has been involved in the auditorium before. It was her 1965 graduating class that raised money for the curtains currently hanging on stage. Jean and her husband, former Toledo Public Schools educator Robert Clark, are semi-retired.