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School Expansion Plans May Demolish Auditorium

To add classrooms and avoid overcrowding at the Silver Spring International Middle School (SSIMS) where the Old Blair Auditorium is co-located, the school system has developed three construction options. Unfortunately, two of those eliminate the auditorium.

Options #2 and #3 would:
  • Demolish the boarded up auditorium - tearing the building down (after having spent $1.2 million, including state funds, on hazmat remediation, ceiling, seat, and rug removal, and renovation design plans).
  • Abandon the existing and quite functional Gym/Field House - boarding it up, and building a new one instead.

Montgomery County Residents: Please contact our new local Councilmember Tom Hucker ( Let him know that you have been looking forward to a renovated auditorium. Let him know that it is not acceptable for the county to take usable resources, board them up, and let them decay.

If you are interested in the school expansion plans, the next public presentation is Wednesday, April 15, 2015 at 7:00 pm, at the middle school (313 Wayne Avenue). The architects, Lukmire Partnership, will present the three design options. This is a PTSA meeting that is open to the public.

The Long Wait

The good news: the auditorium is still in the budget. The bad news: not until FY2020 and beyond. The Montgomery County Executive's budget recommendation for the Old Blair Auditorium Reuse project (PDF file) programs $100,000 in FY20 and the remainder of the funds beyond that. County Executive Ike Leggett has stated that the project is too expensive and that costs must be reduced.

The architects (Grimm+Parker) are nearly done working on the design & development package for the project, which will provide the detailed design, suitable for bids. This will allow a more detailed cost projection to be prepared.

Selected Demolition - Summer 2014

This past summer, Montgomery County and Montgomery County Public Schools performed selective demolition and hazard materials abatement within the auditorium, removing the seats, rugs, curtain, and other decayed finishings.

    See two pictures of the auditorium in October 2014 after the county performed selective demolition.

It's still dirty and dusty, but the mold is gone (for now and until the next roof leak).

Such an odd sight without the seats!

Schematic Design Presented at Two Community Meetings

On April 30 and May 8, the Montgomery County Department of General Services and the Montgomery County Public Schools presented information on the Stickley Auditorium renovation project, including preliminary design concepts.

Please view the county's project page and briefing slides.

Please note that the county has not budgeted funds for actual construction. Only the design has been funded. See below for more information about the budget.

Design Delay Averted; Construction Funds Still Deleted From Budget

Thanks to an outpouring of community support, County Executive Ike Leggett has reversed his decision to delay the design phase of the auditorium project, with $600,000 in capital funds allocated for the remainder of this fiscal year. Without this funding, the $600,000 in state bond bill funds will expire.

However, his budget still indefinitely delays funding for the construction phase of the auditorium, removing construction funds from his proposed Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budget over escalated cost concerns. The construction funds had been planned for FY16 and FY17, but have been moved to "beyond 6 years".

Write to Ike Leggett and ask him to amend his budget to restore the construction funds:

Send email to the County Executive:

Please also let the County Council know that now is the time to move forward!

Send email to the County Council:

Tell them to retain funding for the "Old Blair Auditorium Reuse" project (No. 361113).

This wonderful community resource will continue to mold and decay -- just inches from our kids. It is appalling that the county has let this happen and has failed to accept responsibility.

February 12, 2014 Gazette Article: When Will the Curtain Rise Again for the Old Blair Auditorium

The Old Blair Auditorium (Student Documentary) from mrmayo on Vimeo.

We are sad to note the passing of Virginia Alexandra Steward Billhimer (MBHS class of 1970) and would like to thank everyone who made donations to the Old Blair Auditorium Project in her honor and memory, including:

Arna Rubman Berkowitz
Thomas and Carla Fogle
Philip and Charlene Jehle
Karen McGuire
Andrew Samples
Christine Turner

Her obituary was published in the Washington Post on April 17, 2013.

County Executive Proposes One Year Delay in Planning

County Executive Ike Leggett's proposed capital budget shifts the FY 12 funding for construction planning to FY 13 (which runs from July 2012 through June 2013). The plan keeps the actual construction in FY 16 and FY 17. The County Council will vote on the proposed budget in May 2012.

See our testimony and the County Executive's budget for the auditorium in the Current Documents section of our About the Project page.

Class of 1970 Makes Contribution

We'd like to thank the Montgomery Blair High School Class of 1970 alumni who attended the 40th Reunion and contributed to the Old Blair Auditorium Project. Special thanks to Ken Shifrin, Arna Rubman Berkowitz, Leslie Shuken Herzka, and Lois Groner Klein, who organized the fundraising effort.

[Editor's note: It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Lois Groner Klein in November 2011. Lois was an ardent supporter of the renovation. We thank the Class of 1970 alumni who made contributions to the auditorium in her honor.]

Open House Pictures

On Saturday October 2, 2011, from 10am to 1pm, the auditorium was open for viewing in conjunction with the Montgomery Blair High School Class of 1970 reunion. A few pictures from the event are available on our Facebook page (you do not need to be a member of Facebook to view them).


We wanted to make sure you heard the exciting news: On May 27, 2010, the Montgomery County Council voted to formally establish the Old Blair Auditorium Re-use project and fund it in the Fiscal Years 2011-16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP)! (Note that construction projects are funded from the capital budget, which has increased this year, and is not subject to the constraints of this year's reduced operating budget.)

Architectural planning and design will take place in FY12 and the construction work is planned for FY16. "Option 3" of the feasibility study was selected. This option, which calls for a 750-seat auditorium, four adjacent multi-purpose rooms, and an elevator to provide accessible access to the 2nd floor multi-purpose rooms, was the option recommended by the community.

The county's FY12 funding ($600,000) will serve as matching funds for the 2005 state bond bill funds of $600,000.

We are extremely grateful to Councilmember Valerie Ervin, who proposed the community oriented multi-use solution and pressed for full funding. We also thank Councilmembers George Leventhal, Nancy Navarro, and Duchy Trachtenberg, who voted for the project in committee, and Councilmember Marc Elrich for his strong support, as well as the full council for passing the final budget that includes this project.

Maryland State Senator Jamie Raskin and Maryland Delegates Sheila Hixson, Heather Mizeur, and Tom Hucker also deserve our thanks for ensuring that the state bond bill funding was extended to meet the project schedule.

Thanks also to Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett for including initial funding in his recommended CIP budget, and to both Ike and Catherine Leggett for being early supporters of the project.

Special thanks also to former Senator Ida Ruben who, along with Delegate Hixson in the House of Delegates, who got the bond bill process rolling in the state Senate in 2005.

July 2006 Auditorium Visit

Here's a photo from a very hot summer day in the auditorium back in July 2006, with Senator Jamie Raskin, former Senator Ida Ruben, Councilmember Valerie Ervin, former Delegate Garreth Murray, and Delegate Heather Mizeur checking out the facility. Silver Spring International Middle School Principal Vicky Parcan and Assistant Principal Joesph Mamana were also present.

Read below to learn more about the selected renovation option.

Thanks for all your wonderful support over the years!

Old Blair Auditorium Project, Inc. Board of Directors

More Good News

The MD Legislature approved an extension to the $600,000 state bond bill. We thank Senator Jamie Raskin and Delegates Sheila Hixson, Heather Mizeur, and Tom Hucker for their efforts in getting this passed.

Shuttered since 1998 after 29 years of operation, the Old Blair Auditorium awaits a new audience! Help us save the Old Blair Auditorium.

Architects Identify Several Renovation Options

The Feasibility Study is done and is now available. In the report, the architects identified several options for renovating the former Elizabeth Stickley Auditorium into a multi-use space with a performance auditorium and adjacent rooms, all for community and school use. You can read a summary or download the full study.

Small Sketch of One of the Renovation Options

Thanks for Attending the Auditorium Tour

Thanks to everyone, especially the Blair alums who came out to tour the auditorium on Saturday, October 17!

Mural Installation

Be sure to stop by to see the auditorium mural that was installed by the former entrance to the auditorium on September 12, 2009.

Neighborhood kids created artwork during several community art classes that we sponsored in the Fall of 2007. Then, artist Stephanie Ney from Art for the People conveyed the kids' creations onto large mural boards. The project was funded by Old Blair Auditorium Project, and by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.

   Montgomery County Councilmember and close-by neighbor Valerie Ervin stopped by during the mural installation (shown here with some Old Blair Auditorium Project board members).

See the pictures and watch the video

Community Meetings!

The community meetings with architects from Grimm+Parker have concluded. Over the course of the summer, the study will be prepared and cost estimates will be developed.

See the article by Jason Tomassini in the Washington Post Montgomery Extra edition (May 21, 2009) for a brief summary.

Please Make a Donation!

Please make a donation, either online or by postal mail.

The green button above will take you to a secure web site hosted by PayPal to accept your credit card information. The Old Blair Auditorium Project will not have access to your private credit card information.

County Council Education Committee Project Review

On November 24, 2008, the County Council's Education Committee reviewed the progress of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) facilities planning process for renovation of the Old Blair Auditorium into a multi-use facility that can be used for musical and theatrical auditorium performances as well as other functions, such as after-school programs and community events, including programs by run by the County's Health and Human Services department and Department of Recreation. The specific uses have not been determined -- the formal portion of the MCPS study (in early 2009) will determine those uses and their associated costs.

This is a more inclusive and flexible renovation concept than the professional theatre concept originally proposed in 2004, yet still meets the needs of the arts community users that we've worked with over the past several years. To accommodate the desired uses of this space will most likely result in an auditorium that is smaller than 1,200 seats, but still big enough for medium-to-large performances.

Read the meeting packet (880k PDF file).

Backstage Door Mural is Finished!

Kids at Silver Spring's CREATE Arts Center designed and painted an auditorium-themed mural to brighten up the door.

Click on the picture to see a picture of the backstage door from inside the auditorium.

Neighborhood Art and Craft Show Was a Great Success!

Some of our neighbors organized an art and craft show, with about 100 people attending. This is planned to be an annual event to benefit local charities, and this year's event benefited the Old Blair Auditorium Project!

Our thanks go out to everyone who attended.

Please Donate!

We invite all of our suporters to make a tax deductible contribution to the Old Blair Auditorium Project.

Maryland State Arts Council Awards Grant to Create Auditorium Mural

To help design the mural, we offered a series of FREE Community Art Classes, designed for children 6 to 14 and their families. The classes were presented by our friends at Art for the People.

Thanks to everyone who signed up! Stay tuned for information about how the mural will be created.

The art mural project is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. The Council receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, which believes that a great nation deserves great art. We are very pleased to have the State's support!

Rock for Renovation On Saturday, September 29, 2007, Blair seniors Andrew Joseph and Eric Merchant presented "Rock for Renovation", a benefit concert to help renovate the Old Blair Auditorium. The concert was part of their Communications Arts Program senior project.

The show featured Derek James (from NYC), The Fighting Janes, Neil Foley (Irish Fiddle), and Blair High School's InToneNation (a cappella singing).

The concert raised $2,000 for the auditorium project!

It was great fun. We hope to have pictures and video available soon.

In the meantime, we'd like to thank Andrew and Eric, the bands, the volunteers, Montgomery Blair High School, and the community for making this a great success. We'd also like to thank Councilmembers Valerie Ervin and George Leventhal for coming out to the show.

An update from Councilmember Valerie Ervin's June 2007 newsletter (The Ervin Edition):

    One of my priorities is to revive the Old Blair Auditorium, (located at Silver Spring International Middle School) by creating a mixed-use facility for the performing arts, in-school and after school programs, and community use space. During the past six months, I have worked with Old Blair Auditorium Inc. to identify community partners who are looking for space. These partners include the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), the Montgomery County Collaboration Council for Children, Youth, and Families, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Department of Recreation, the Silver Spring YMCA, and other local non-profits.

MCPS has written a letter of intent to help restore the facility and has agreed to conduct a new space analysis which incorporates each partner's programmatic needs, while retaining the auditorium as a major venue for the performing arts. At the federal level, I have requested support from Senators Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski and have met with Congressman Albert Wynn, who is fully supportive of the project.

New Collaborators Add Momentum

Thanks to the energetic efforts of County Councilmember Valerie Ervin and her staff, we've started working with the Montgomery County Public Schools, the Montgomery County Collaboration Council for Children, Youth and Families, and several County agencies to determine how to optimally use the facility -- not just for performing arts and school uses -- but also for the benefit of youth and families in our community. The boarded up portion of the building includes more than just seats and a stage -- there are office, hallway, and storage spaces, as well. We believe that all of the space can and should be put to good use.

Montgomery County Public School System Voices Support

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Weast has announced support for the renovation project. The school system will perform the space analysis required to determine the design layout and costs associated with creating a multi-use facility for the Old Blair Auditorium.

The Old Blair Auditorium was once a major performing arts venue in Silver Spring, Maryland, and was one of the best-used facilities in the greater D.C. area. The auditorium, located in the former Montgomery Blair High School building at the corner of Dale Drive and Wayne Avenue, has been boarded up and now sits unused. This project aims to breathe life back into the auditorium and make the auditorium available for community use. For information about the project, see our About the Project page.

Check out some student photos
from Stevie Wonder's 1981 performance

(click on the polaroids!)

Click the picture to view.

Three students from Montgomery Blair High School's Communications Arts Program (Class of 2005) made a movie about the Old Blair Auditorium.

Thanks to Stephanie Nguyen, Daniel Ottalini, and Stasi Tyser for their excellent work!

The film is in Quicktime format.

Project Supporters:
  • Ike Leggett, Montgomery County Executive
  • Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Council
  • Nancy Floreen, Montgomery County Council
  • George Leventhal, Montgomery County Council
  • Hans Riemer, Montgomery County Council
  • Douglas Duncan, former Montgomery County Executive
  • Valerie Ervin, former member of Montgomery County Council
  • Duchy Trachtenberg, former member of Montgomery County Council
  • Tom Perez, former member of Montgomery County Council
  • Steve Silverman, former member of Montgomery County Council
  • Jamie Raskin, Senator, Maryland Senate
  • Ida Ruben, former Senator, Maryland Senate
  • Sheila Hixson, Delegate, Maryland House
  • Heather Mizeur, former Delegate, Maryland House
  • Tom Hucker, Delegate, Maryland House
  • Peter Franchot, Comptroller of Maryland; former Delegate, Maryland House
  • Gareth Murray, former Delegate, Maryland House
  • Derick Berlage, former Chairman, Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission
  • Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County
  • TheatreWorks/USA
  • Bach Sinfonia
  • Soul in Motion Players
  • Washington Ensemble Theater
  • Coral Cantigas/Latin American Chorus of Greater Washington and Diana Saez, Founder/Artistic Director
  • Culkin School of Traditional Irish Dance
  • Maryland Youth Ballet
  • Community Music, Inc. / Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer
  • Class Acts Arts
  • Carpe Diem Choral Arts Residency Project
  • National Council for the Traditional Arts
  • Institute of Musical Traditions
  • Liz Lerman Dance Exchange
  • Mason-Rhynes Productions
  • Silver Spring Stage
  • Joe's Movement Emporium
  • Folklore Society of Greater Washington
  • Washington National Opera's Young Artists' Program
  • Lumina Studio Theater
  • Capitol City Symphony
  • Just Theatre Company
  • Wayang Kulit and Gamelan Orchestra
  • Tappers with Attitude
  • Agis Center for Arts and Humanities/ Jon Jiang Liu, President/CEO
  • Clancy Works
  • Cantata Chamber Singers
  • Washington Musica Viva
  • Silverwinds Flute Quartet
  • Bhoomikaa, Inc.
  • Sutradhar Dance Institute
  • Dance Performance Group
  • Suto Dance Studio
  • Twinbrook School of Ballet
  • Expressive Arts Alliance
  • International Conservatory of Music
  • Symphony of the Potomac
  • Kathy Lally, Executive Director, Montgomery County Collaboration Council
  • Carol Garvey, M.D.,MPH, Chair of Montgomery County Collaboration Council Executive Committee
  • Carol Walsh, Senior Associate for Community Initiatives, Montgomery County Collaboration Council
  • Ilene Sparber, Manager, Linkages to Learning
  • Montgomery Preservation, Inc.
  • Silver Spring Historical Society/ Jerry McCoy, President
  • Progressive Maryland
  • Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board
  • Seven Oaks-Evanswood Civic Association
  • Indian Spring Citizens Association
  • Marcus Johnson
  • Pilar Torres, Executive Director, Centro Familia
  • Roberta Gasbarre, Director, Discovery Theater/Smithsonian Institution
  • Eliot Pfanstiehl, President/CEO, Strathmore Music Center
  • Jerry Whiddon, Producing Artistic Director Emeritus, Round House Theater
  • Dave Lorentz, Executive Producer, Takoma Park JazzFest
  • Richard Ley, President, Silver Spring Stage
  • Linda Sullivan
  • Frankie Blackburn, Executive Director, IMPACT Silver Spring
  • Pete Jervey, Silver Spring Gateway Project Manager, JBG Company
  • Roger Lewis, architect, Washington Post columnist/cartoonist, and University of Maryland professor
  • Jon Palmer Claridge, former President of Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Director of Arlington County Cultural Affairs Division
  • Jennifer Betts, daughter of the late Keter Betts, legendary jazz musician
  • Susan Soorenko, Moorenko's Ice Cream Company
  • Marco Fortini, DaMarco Italian Gourmet
  • Lene Tsegaye, Kefa Cafe
  • Nikos Marmara, The Golden Flame Restaurant & Lounge
  • Pyramid Atlantic and Helen Frederick, Founder/Executive Artistic Director
  • Christopher Barclay, Member, Montgomery County Board of Education
  • Diantha Swift, Principal, Sligo Creek Elementary School
  • John Haas, former Principal, Silver Spring International Middle School
  • Vicky Parcan, former Principal, Silver Spring International Middle School
  • Sligo Creek Elementary School PTSA
  • Silver Spring International Middle School PTSA
  • More than 1000 residents of neighboring communities who have signed petition calling on government officials to provide funds to support reopening the Old Blair Auditorium

What's New?

May 8, 2014 The second of two community meetings was held to present the schmatic design concept for the auditorium renovation. Presentation materials will be available online soon.
Feb 12, 2014 The Gazette has a new article about the county funding delays that threaten the project
Mar 7, 2011 We've posted Ken Shifrin's stories of the auditorium.
May 27, 2010 Montgomery County Council votes to formally establish the Old Blair Auditorium Re-use project and fund it in the Fiscal Years 2011-16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP).
Mar 11, 2010 We added Councilmember Valerie Ervin's letter of support (dated Feb 26, 2010).
Feb 24, 2010 The Gazette writes about last ditch efforts to save the auditorium.
Feb 17, 2010 We have uploaded our testimony to the Montgomery County Council regarding the FY11 Capital Budget to the About the Project page (see the Current Documents section.
Dec 17, 2009 We have uploaded the County's Feasibility Study that identifies several renovation options.
Sept 14, 2009 Pictures of this past Saturday's mural installation are now available.
Apr 29, 2009 Vicki Van Grack wrote in with her memories of the auditorium.
Nov 26, 2008 The Gazette reports on the Montgomery County Council Education Committee review.
Nov 24, 2008 Project review at the County Council Education Committee meeting
May 14, 2008 The Gazette reports on the Montgomery County Council hearing on the auditorium. (Open the article and then page down to find the part that covers the auditorium project)
May 10, 2008 Neighbors hosted a local Art and Craft show and sale to raise money for the auditorium.
Nov 9, 2007 The Friday Home Guide in the Washington Times has a nice article about the reuse of old school buildings, mentioning the auditorium.
Sep 29, 2007 Blair High School students held a benefit concert for the auditorium as part of a school project, raising $2,000.
May 7, 2007 Our May 2007 Newsletter is available.
Apr 25, 2007 Superintendent of Schools agrees to perform space and cost analysis for the multi-use renovation.
Apr 24, 2007 Congressman Albert Wynn tours the auditorium.
Mar 20, 2007 Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Weast announces support for the renovation.
Mar 1, 2007 Councilmembers Valerie Ervin, Mark Elrich, Nancy Floreen, and Duchy Trachtenberg write letter of support to Congress to request Federal funding for the project.
Jan 12, 2007 We've added pictures and a short story about Stevie Wonder's 1981 performance in the auditorium.
Sep 6, 2006 Our September 2006 Newsletter is available.
May 3, 2006 Community residents spoke out in favor of the auditorium at Count Council member Tom Perez's Silver Spring Community Meeting. See the pictures page for a few photos.
Dec 22, 2005 We were awarded a $2,400 grant from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, partly funded by the Executive's Ball for the Benefit of Arts and Humanities. The grant will help us to implement a database management system and access training from the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations.
Oct 1, 2005 Volunteers from Comcast and from the local community joined to improve the entrance to the auditorium as well as the two adjacent schools.
July 26, 2005 The IRS has granted the Old Blair Auditorium Project, Inc. 501(c)(3) charitable status, effective retroactively to September 30, 2004.
June 28, 2005 Councilmember Tom Perez issued a summary of the April 2005 meeting that he held to gather community input on the future of Silver Spring. Many meeting participants mentioned the Old Blair Auditorium as an import part of the future of Silver Spring. Read more about it on our News and Press page.
June 14, 2005 MCPS Board of Education (BOE) approves future transfer of the Old Blair Auditorium to the County government as surplus space. Read an excerpt of the BOE meeting minutes (PDF file).
June 3, 2005 Some posters from Stephanie Nguyen (Blair Class of '05) have been uploaded to the pictures and video page.
May 20, 2005 Some pictures are now available from our May 13th garden party fundraiser with local musicians Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.
May 4, 2005 We have posted the song lyrics for "Somewhere", which we sang to the Maryland State Senate and House.
Apr 13, 2005 Another excellent article in the Montgomery Gazette about our bond bill success and our testimony to the Montgomery County Council. See our news section.
Apr 8, 2005 This week, the Maryland state legislature approved $600,000 in bond bill funds for the project.
Mar 29, 2005 Two letters to the Editor of the Montgomery Gazette are available in our news section.
Mar 25, 2005 We've posted some new great stories from Marianne Szwec Leizure, Jean M. Caswell, and Kevin Meek.
Mar 24, 2005 The Washington Post printed a nice article about our efforts and our lobbying in Annapolis.
Mar 20, 2005 We've added the program covers from previous plays held in the auditorium.
Mar 17, 2005 The Washington Post has printed a nice letter to the Editor.
Mar 11, 2005 We have uploaded some of our key documentation about the project, including a project overview and a summary of our business plan.
Feb 25, 2005 Our 24-hour challenge is over. You help us exceed our goal, raising $6,435 (more than required for the matching $5,000 grant)!
Feb 24, 2005 Our 24-hour challenge is underway! An anonymous donor has offered $5,000 if we can raise and additional $5,000 in a 24 hour period. Help us reach this goal.
Feb 18, 2005 You can now make secure online donations using your credit card.
Feb 16, 2005 Two new articles about the project have been added to the News and Press page.
Feb 16, 2005 Some pictures from the auditorium tour are available.
Feb 14, 2005 Thanks to everyone who visited the auditorium tour on a rainy Valentine's day. If you didn't get a chance to join us, don't worry! We will have more opportunities to peer into the boarded up auditorium.
Feb 9, 2005 We have a new official mailing address. See our Contact Us page.
Feb 7, 2005 A map showing the location of the auditorium and a description of the bus routes and parking areas has been added to our new map page
Feb 5, 2005 You can now submit your stories and memories about the auditorium on our web site.
Feb 1, 2005 We've added video of Julia Caswell Daitch's moving speech about why the auditorium is so important. This was taken at the Town Meeting back in October 2004, and can be accessed via the Pictures and Video page.

Old Blair Auditorium Project, Inc.    +1 301-960-8982