$625,000 work on iconic RHS tower next

Known as a concert and drama venue for Richmond High School students in previous decades, the newly renovated McGuire Hall now welcomes more community events.

The renovation has been a more than $1 million partnership between Richmond Community Schools and the City of Richmond Redevelopment Commission.

A majority of the funding came from the commission, and RCS Chief Financial Officer Karen Scalf said RCS is “super grateful” for the assistance.

The project was focused on improving the auditorium’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, adding air conditioning to make it usable all year long for a variety of gatherings.

Although the HVAC and roofing upgrades aren’t visible, prior visitors will notice several changes, such as new interior painting, flooring, seats, curtains, sound and lighting systems and general technology.

Scalf said the paint colors were changed for a fresh look, but renovators tried to remain historically accurate. McGuire Hall was built in the late 1930s and early ’40s, and the school is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Scalf noted that Richmond Art Museum has been a vital partner at McGuire Hall over the years. The museum conducted a capital campaign a few years ago to renovate its galleries and restrooms, assisting with the beautification of the entire hall. RAM is believed to be the only public art museum in a public high school in the United States.

To re-introduce the venue to area residents, several student music ensembles recently performed in the hall, along with Richmond Community Orchestra. RCO violinist George Carr, who was an RHS Orchestra concertmaster in the 1960s when his ensemble played in McGuire Hall, served in that role for the night.

Scalf said McGuire’s renovation might help RCS students realize how many arts opportunities the community has, and that some of those opportunities already are present in their own facilities.

Scalf is excited for the possibilities of RCS and RAM as well as other county schools and community groups using the nearly 500-seat hall for everything from concerts and drama to classroom activities and speakers. She said there already is quite a bit of interest being shown in the hall among community groups.

RCS already rents out the approximately 900-seat Civic Hall Performing Arts Center for performances and conferences beyond school events and the Proudly Presenting Series of nationally touring performers, but Scalf said McGuire Hall offers an atmosphere that might be appealing for smaller events.

“RCS is willing and happy to open our doors to make sure the community has the ability to use this beautiful gem of a facility,” Scalf said.

Tower renovation upcoming

Just after McGuire Hall’s renovations were completed, RCS’ board recently approved approximately $625,000 for a renovation of the high school’s iconic tower. Façade and roofing work are planned.

Scalf said it’s possible that passersby might not even realize the work has been done after it’s completed since no flashy renovations are taking place.

Because of the tower’s height, cranes will be used. Crews are expected on site over the summer, and possibly late spring if their schedules allow. The plan is to be finished before school starts in August.

Scalf said the restoration has been needed for a short while, and proactive maintenance is more cost effective than reactionary repairs.

McGuire Hall’s nearly 500-seat hall and Civic Hall’s approximately 900-seat hall are available to rent for performances, conferences and other events. Those interested can call 765-973-3350 or 765-973-3300.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.