YOUNGSTOWN - Work is continuing at the Tyler Mahoning Valley History Center, which is being opened for special events, including a recent presentation by an expert on the Civil War.
The Mahoning Valley History Center, 325 W. Federal St., Youngstown will be the location for programs and exhibits of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society when it is completed.
Bill Lawson, executive director of the historical society, said 80 percent of the financial goal for the renovation has been reached and 99 percent of the renovations to the interior of the building have been completed.
"We are working to close out the campaign and develop our exhibits and programs to be up and running this year,'' Lawson said.
The society had received $500,000 in gifts to the campaign for the center. The campaign for the center has secured more than $4.4 million of its $6 million goal. The campaign is raising $4 million for capital improvements and $2 million for future programming and operations of the center.
Lawson said no official opening date has been set, but the center will be used for special events and programs such as a Civil War program which featured Dr. Allen Guelzo, director of the Civil War Era Studies and professor of history at Gettysburg College. He spoke on "Was the Civil War the Second American Revolution?" More than 200 people attended.
Guelzo said the center will be ''a constant reminder of the rich history of the Mahoning Valley.''
Tracy Manning, curator of education who attended Gettysburg College, said Guelzo was her adviser.
"His classes were challenging, but he taught us how to think. He was very influential on Civil War,'' she said.
The center has also been rented for outside events, fundraising and small lecture programs this past year.
Lawson said the building was acquired September 2007 by the society and the renovations began in October 2010.
''The whole building has been renovated with a few areas that are near being done,'' he said.
Lawson said the first and third floors of the building will have historical exhibits when completed. Historical society archives will also be in the basement. Plans are to make it a community center ''steeped in the history of the region'' with emphasis on celebrating and learning.
The main exhibit gallery on the first floor will be named for the Frank and Pearl Gelbman Foundation. The second floor of the center will have the historic ballroom to be named for the late Mr. and Mrs. Paul J. Thomas.
The Gelbman Foundation Gallery will feature a large-scale, multi-media exhibit in 2,200 square feet utilizing visual and hands-on elements to convey the valley experience. The exhibit's components are in the design phase.
The Thomas Ballroom will offer a 3,300 venue with restored decor, dance floor, lighting band stand and views of the downtown. The Thomas Ballroom will be a gathering space for public use.
The center will include a comprehensive history museum with the theme "Inspiration through Heritage."
The center will be able to be used to celebrate events such as weddings, graduations, reunions and dances.