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Carnegie music hall executive takes a bow after spearheading vital renovations

Maggie Forbes is planning to retire after a successful tenure as executive director.

By Elizabeth Perry

After 20 years as executive director at the Carnegie Library & Music Hall, Maggie Forbes is planning to retire at the end of the year.

Before then, she hopes to complete fundraising for renovations which began in 2003 when she launched their first capital restoration campaign.

“The community has been there every step of the way,” Forbes said.

Back then, Carnegie residents gave half a million dollars in individual donations to restore the library back to its former glory, matching an anonymous challenge grant.

Since Forbes has been on board, the structure and its grounds have continually seen improvement, starting in 2004 with the library renovation. At the time, the library had not been touched since it was originally created, which Forbes viewed as a blessing and a curse. Things were in a state of neglect and disrepair, but most of the fixtures and decorations had not been changed at all.

“This really was a restoration project,” Forbes said.

Forbes has overseen a dramatic transformation of the building during her tenure. In the past 20 years, the Carnegie Library and Music Hall has renovated the library, updated the landscaping in front of the building, established the Lincoln Room which is home to a unique photographic collection detailing images of the president and restored the mezzanine and basement studio space. In 2010, they completed restoration of the Thomas Espy Post. The time-capsule-like room served as a meeting space for the Grand Army of the Republic – a civil war veteran’s group which dissolved in the 1930s after the last Union veteran died.

Despite the changes, there is one spot that still needs attention.

Many updates are still needed to improve the music hall. The hall is patterned off its more famous counterpoint in New York City, Carnegie Hall, and has excellent acoustics despite being in dire need of an update.

Forbes detailed the changes needed; the stage floor must be replaced, knob and tube wiring has to be taken out, updated lights that will bring it in line with modern theatrical standards must be installed, and molding repairs and air conditioning updates are needed to see it through.

Forbes described the building as Carnegie’s legacy gift to the town that took his name. The cities of Chartiers and Mansfield incorporated and renamed themselves after the steel mill owner in 1894. Carnegie donated $100,000 to create the building which was built in 1899.



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