By Elise Franco
It’s only fitting that the Harry Burt Building, with its rich local history, is home to the new Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center, the historical society’s executive director said.
Bill Lawson, Mahoning Valley Historical Society executive director, and Paul Ricciuti, consultant and former president at Ricciuti, Balog and Partners Architects, met Thursday with about 50 residents and visitors of Park Vista South in Youngstown to discuss the nearly complete renovation of the former Harry Burt Building downtown.
The Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center, named for Jeanne D. Tyler, who donated $700,000 to the project, is slated to open this fall, Lawson said.
The campaign for the center has raised about $4.5 million of its $6 million goal, Lawson said. He expects about 95 percent of the renovation work to be completed by April 1.
“After April, we have a lot of work in terms of outfitting the interior of the building,” he said. “Our target opening is fall 2012.”
The building at 325 W. Federal St. was once home to Harry Burt’s Good Humor factory and Ross Radio. The historical society’s plan was to transform it into a historical-themed community center that will house MVHS archives, display local and traveling exhibits and could play host to community or private events.
“This building has a rich history, so it’s only fitting that the historical society use it,” Lawson said.
Ricciuti said one of the most daunting tasks dur
ing the planning phase of the project was figuring out how to meet building-code requirements without ruining its historical integrity.
He said instead of tearing up floors to install safety stairwells and an elevator, the historical society leased a portion of city-owned property for $1.
Leasing the property, which butts up against the society’s property, allowed construction of the stairwells and elevator on the outer wall of the building.
Ricciuti discussed each level of the four-story building, which includes an 8,000-square-foot basement that will be used for archiving and storage, several new classroom spaces, window exhibits and a ballroom for events.
He said important touches of the building’s history — original wood flooring in the ballroom and a grand staircase — will remain intact, though its interior is getting a more modern face-lift.
“The original windows are still there; we just rebuilt them instead of replacing them,” he said. “We also refurbished four skylights and cleaned the terra cotta.
“We worked hard not to impact the original building or its historical integrity.”
Lawson also noted that opening the new center doesn’t mean closing the Arms Family Museum on Wick Avenue. “The Tyler center is an expansion project, and the Arms Museum is still a very important part of what we do.”
Lawson said once the center is complete, the MVHS will begin focusing on a preservation project at the Arms Museum.
Emily Powers, former MVHS board president, said after the meeting that she and other current and former board members are excited to see the finished center.
“I’m very enthusiastic for the way the building turned out,” she said. “They’ve turned that building into something special.”