BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The Salem YMCA’s drive to restore historic Ames Memorial Hall is in the final stretch.
The Y has raised $1 million in a capital campaign that began more than two years ago and ends Dec. 31. In these last two weeks, the organization is hoping for a combination of gifts and grants that will move it closer to $1.5 million.
This final push got a big boost from several members of Historic Salem Inc., a private preservation group, which has donated $20,000 and is encouraging others in the community to contribute matching funds.
The Y also announced that The Creative Arts Center at the Salem YMCA, which will be centered around Ames Hall, will be named in honor of the late Salem Judge and Mayor Samuel Zoll and his wife, Marjorie.
It is a fitting tribute, officials said, for a couple who were longtime YMCA members and supporters of the arts — Mrs. Zoll sings with the Paul Madore Chorale — and for a mayor who fought to save the city’s historic downtown and was a champion of children and the underprivileged.
“He (epitomized) this community and was committed to the things that really mattered in this city,” said Mari Matt, executive director of the Salem YMCA.
Zoll, who grew up poor in North Salem and rose to become chief justice of the Massachusetts District Courts, reflected “the Y’s commitment to making (its facilities) really accessible to everyone,” Matt said.
An official at HSI said they were delighted to join a campaign that preserves a treasured hall and honors a beloved mayor and his wife.
“Sam Zoll did an awful lot for preservation and for the kids of the city, and we’re honored to support that,” said Sandy Dickson, president of the HSI board.
Although the YMCA launched a $3.5 million campaign in 2010, it proved a challenging goal in a difficult economic climate, Matt said. However, the funds raised so far are enough to restore Ames Hall, which was built in 1898 and is a vestige of the storied past of Salem theaters.
With an entrance that features a marble staircase and stained-glass windows, Ames Hall served a variety of purposes over the years. It was home to ballroom dancing and rollerskating, and in 1916 hosted a speech by President William H. Taft.
Plans for the restoration are already taking shape. In fact, the new heating and air conditioning units are scheduled to arrive in the next few weeks.
“The YMCA of the North Shore is committed to this project,” Matt said of the umbrella organization that has facilities in Salem, Beverly, Marblehead, Haverhill, Ipswich, Rockport and Gloucester.
Several years ago, the organization began the North Shore YMCA Theatre Company, a youth program that is based at the Salem Y and stages several performances every year in Ames Hall. A production of “Fiddler on the Roof” completed its run here this month.
In the past few years, nearly 500 children from the North Shore have taken part in plays at Ames Hall, Matt said.
When the restoration is completed, Ames Hall will add a balcony and will have new lighting, heating, air conditioning, acoustics and other improvements.
In time, officials hope to add all-purpose rooms for music and art programs.
The Samuel and Marjorie Zoll Creative Arts Center at the Salem YMCA will be open to all children, Matt said, regardless of their families’ financial situation. It also will help fulfill the YMCA’s mission to serve a wide spectrum of children and interests.
“We know not all kids are athletes and there needs to be an outlet for them to express themselves,” Matt said. “It fits so well with the Y’s mission, and it fits so well with the history of art and culture in Salem.”
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.
How to give
A gift to the Samuel and Marjorie Zoll Creative Arts Center at the Salem YMCA may be made with a check payable to “The Salem YMCA.” Please include a note designating the gift to the arts center.
For more information, contact the Y at 978-740-9622.