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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

TOWN HALL OF CLEVELAND

TOWN HALL OF CLEVELAND

TOWN HALL OF CLEVELAND, a subscription lecture series, was founded by Mrs. Wm. C. (Alice Katherine Newton) Wallin when she came to Cleveland from Detroit with her husband in 1930. Mrs. Wallin, a former newspaperwoman and participant in Detroit Town Hall, started the Town Hall of Cleveland (the 4th city in the country to have a Town Hall) as "courses designed for intelligent thinking." Dr. Will Durant, philosopher and author, addressed more than 50 subscribers at the first meeting of Town Hall, 21 Oct. 1931 at the OHIO THEATER on "A Program of National Progress." Mrs. Newton D. Baker presided as hostess at the first subscription luncheon, held at the Hotel Statler, where Dr. Durant was guest of honor. Other speakers in the first series included Winston Churchill, Will Irwin (journalist), Mr. and Mrs. Martin Johnson (African explorers), and Mark Sullivan (author). Mrs. Wallin, assisted by Mrs. Richard H. Cobb and Mrs. Celeste (Beckwith) Chapman Williams, secured over 400 speakers of note through her 32-year tenure as director of Town Hall. In Feb. 1962 Mrs. Wallin retired and sold Town Hall to Peggy Meldrum, a newspaper photographer, who was later joined by Jeanne Jones and Robert F. Frankel as co-directors. They continued the traditional format of a monthly morning lecture followed by a luncheon including a question-and-answer period. The lectures, held from autumn through late winter, are presented by authorities on world and/or international affairs, educators, humorists, politicians, columnists, editors, publishers, musicians, poets, playwrights, psychologists, actresses, and diplomats and statesmen from both the U.S. and abroad. Billed in 1994 as the nation's longest-running consecutive speaker series, Town Hall of Cleveland has met since 1985 at the STOUFFER RENAISSANCE CLEVELAND HOTEL. Incorporated as a nonprofit organization, it frequently attracts more than 1,000 subscribers to its series of about 7 lectures.