A Dream Comes True
William Doud Packard was a man with a dream when it came to music. He loved marches, band music, military music and the musicians who performed the music. He also loved the city of Warren.
When he wrote his will in 1920, three years before his death, Packard made sure that a dream of keeping music alive in Warren would come true after he had passed on.
Now, many years later, that dream has become an important part of the cultural and entertainment life of the Warren area.
W.D. Packard and his brother, James Ward, formed a company in 1891, the New York and Ohio Company, to produce incandescent carbon-arc lamps and transformers. In 1899, along with George Lewis Weiss, they built the first automobile bearing the Packard name, a car which fast became a respected name in the automotive industry and which led to Packard development of a new product, the automotive ignition cable.
In 1903, the automobile business was moved to Detroit while the cable and manufacturing business remained in Warren, Ohio where today the Delphi Packard Electric Systems is one of the area’s largest employers.
W.D. Packard’s commitment to his community was evident in 1911 when he gave land to the city of Warren from the family property on Mahoning Avenue to be used as a park.
On July 4, 1915, work was completed and ceremonies were held to dedicate Packard Park with it’s ponds, shelter houses and gardens.
In his will, Packard designated that funds would be set aside in a trust to build a music hall and finance the establishment of a band to play in it for the “edification and entertainment of the people of Warren”. The city of Warren became beneficiary after Katherine Packard, W.D. Packard’s wife, died in 1940. Costs had increased from the 1920’s when the will was written and the $150,000 allocated for the hall was hardly adequate in the 1950’s to build the hall Packard had envisioned. 1.4 million was used from the trust to build the W.D. Packard Music Hall with the remainder of the income from the trust to be used to maintain the band.
The first step toward actually building Mr. Packard’s hall came on March 5, 1942, when the Packard Park Board of Trustees, composed of L.C. Brown, W.C. Ward, D.S. McElrath and B.N. MacGregor approved a resolution accepting the conditions and provisions of the Packard will that led to the construction of the hall.
Today, the Packard Music Hall is the center of cultural and entertainment programs in the Warren area and averages over 150,000 in attendance each year. It is the site of a wide variety of events including ballet, children’s programming, theater, corporate meetings, high school graduations, dance recitals, dances, and of course, the free monthly Packard Band Concerts. The Hall has also been used annually by organizations such as the Warren Civic Music Association, Trumbull Town Hall Lecture Series, the Barbershoppers, the Giddings Club, the American Association of University Women, the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra and many others.
It has a seating capacity of 2,500 and also includes small meeting rooms, a kitchen, and dressing rooms. The Packard Will provided nothing for maintenance, so annual operating costs are covered by hall rentals and city subsidies.
The hall officially opened on October 15, 1955. W.B. Gibson was the building contractor and Arthur Sidells was the architect. When B.N. MacGregor, president of the Packard Park Board of Trustees, accepted the keys to the building he said he was receiving the keys “in a sacred trust for W.D. Packard”. Warren Mayor William C. Burbank called the hall a “fulfillment of a dream”. Concurrent with the opening of the music hall in 1955, Packard’s dream of a concert band was being realized with the organization of the W.D. Packard Concert Band. Mr. Packard, in his will, had specified that his longtime friend Bradford D. Gilliland would be its first leader.
But Gilliland died in 1931.
The Packard Board of Trustees named George Garstick as the band’s first musical advisor, consultant and first band manager. Garstick, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, had a broad musical background, having played and toured with symphony orchestras and professional bands throughout the United States. It was the effort of Garstick, Charles Corlett, then president of the Warren Federation of Musicians Local 118, and Roger Coe, the first conductor, that pulled the band together in its early years.
Because of W.D. Packard’s generosity, Warren area residents are able to appreciate today a heritage that dates back to the 1800’s when town bands were a part of American life.
W.D. Packard took pride in this aspect of American Heritage and his dream lives on many years after his will was written and the first musical notes were sounded in the hall named after him, The W.D. Packard Music Hall, by his band,
The W.D. Packard Concert Band.