The regional, non-profit City of Huntington Foundation was created in January 1986 with three goals, to:
-- Improve Huntington's civic image and environment by implementing physical improvements to public buildings and streets.
-- Establish a permanent vehicle for recognition of citizen achievements.
-- Develop programs and events that have a positive economic impact on the city.
With 25 volunteer members and one paid director, the foundation's pilot project was the renovation of the public area of City, which was built in 1914. The foundation joined with City Council members in raising fund to renovate the elegant City Council Chambers. The foundation then moved on to complete the renovation of City Hall's main foyer and the mayor office complex, including development of a handsome conference room. In the process, the group also located and restored the portraits of former mayors that now hang in the foyer as Huntington's Hall of Mayors to honor leaders of the past.
Perhaps the foundation's most ambitious project to date has been the restoration of City Hall's grand second floor auditorium to its original design. In the early 1990s, city plans called for gutting the old auditorium to put in more office space, but the foundation's first director, interior designer Jean Carlo Stephenson, urged City Council to reconsider.
Objecting to destruction of such an historic resource, she organized the refurbishing. Renovation began in October 1991 and today, the city auditorium -- renamed the Jean Carlo Stephenson auditorium -- ranks among the finest performance halls in the Tri-State area. The original color scheme of reds, blues and gold, was restored to the ornate ceiling, moldings and stage. Original wooden seats were refinished and the blackened chandeliers were taken down and restored to their brass glory.The facility is located in Huntington City Hall building on the second floor at 800 5th Avenue on the corner of 8th Street and 5th Avenue.
In early 2005, volunteers again came to the aid of the old facility. The roof and bricks apparently have been successfully sealed. Interiors seem to stay dry despite the worst of storms.W&J Plastering replastered walls and paint brushes and rollers belonging to members of District Council 53, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, were applied.
The foundation also has added chandeliers and handicapped restrooms on City Hall's mezzanine and stairway landings, brought in a modern sound system, refurbished dressing rooms and installed a major new lighting system. These days, the facility is rented to area theater companies, dance troupes and music groups as well as visiting performers. It also is home to the 5th Avenue Theatre Company.
Outside the historic City Building, the foundation also recreated the History Walk along the sidewalks of Harris Riverfront Park to give people an opportunity to participate directly in renovation. For $40, you can purchase a brick, have a name and/or message engraved on it and see it each time you stroll in the park. Foundation members sell the bricks at the foundation's tables at fairs, festivals and other events. It's a fun way to contribute and be recognized and to leave something of yourself for posterity. To date, more than a thousand bricks have been sold.
City of Huntington Foundation, Inc
P. O. Box 1659
Huntington, WV 25717-1659
Office telephone - 304-696-5522
Fax - 304-696-5574
Contact - Maxine Loudermilk, President