By Suzy Kridner
DAYTONA BEACH -- Peabody Auditorium has been a jewel on the beachside since its completion in 1949.
Next year it will celebrate its 65th anniversary and the city of Daytona Beach is planning for the event with several projects to upgrade the facility and also showcase its history, said Helen Riger, administrator for Cultural Services and Peabody Auditorium director.
To highlight the history of Peabody, Ms. Riger supervised a project that was recently unveiled to the public, honoring city residents who have had a long history with the auditorium.
The Peabody Historic Collection exhibits, now on the walls of the lobby, include memorabilia from Drew Murphy, Sharon and the late Jim Bridges, and the Tippen Davidson family.
The displays with new items will probably be changed every season, Ms. Riger said, since so much material was provided.
"This is the first historical collection we've installed," she said. "The team in Cultural Services are guardians of Peabody and it's important for us to preserve its history under our watch and for the future."
She said the city doesn't have a lot of memorabilia so with the upcoming anniversary, she was happy for the opportunity to receive great photos and other items for the display cases.
Many of the items have been donated to the city or have been copied from the owners' collections.
Programs and other items also were provided by the Daytona Beach Symphony Society to display during the reception. Peabody has been the home for the society's concerts for more than 61 years.
Also on display for one night was a cast iron harp from a Baldwin Concert Grand Piano that was destroyed by flooding. It was the house piano for 45 years and the harp has been signed by many performers, including Roger Williams and Xavier Cugat.
A longtime member of the Peabody Advisory Board, Drew Murphy's display contains a copy of his book, "Blind Date," about the London Symphony Orchestra, which had its summer home in Daytona Beach for 35 years.
Mr. Murphy was out of the hospital after a fall just in time for the Jan. 15 unveiling and reception of the historic collection.
He spoke briefly about serving on the advisory board and first writing about the LSO during its month-long visit in 1966.
Mr. Murphy also interviewed visiting critics and convinced them to review LSO performances, said Dr. Earnest Murphy, who was master of ceremonies for the unveiling.
Sharon Bridges, who with her husband, Jim brought many performers to Peabody with their company, Concert Showcase, said, "I'm so sorry Jim couldn't be here."
Before his death in September, Mr. Bridges had been working with the city on selecting Concert Showcase memorabilia for the display.
She said Drew Murphy was responsible for the couple moving here from Ohio in 1979.
"We had a show here and Drew reviewed it and told us to move to Florida," she said.
Marc Davidson said his father was made an honorary member of the LSO in 1989. Mr. Davidson pointed to a photo in their display case of his father conducting the famed orchestra, a dream that happened at a Pops concert, and said he helped that dream come true.
City Commissioner Carl Lentz IV said Peabody has hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment.
"In its 64 years, Peabody has presented outstanding theater, music and dance," he said.
Other city commissioners attending were Patrick Henry and Pam Woods.
Ms. Riger said in recent years, more than $2 million has been spent for Peabody improvements, such as new seating, carpeting, stage curtains and floor, an elevator and new restrooms in the balcony, as well as technical stage and sound equipment.
The city is seeking a $300,000 ECHO grant for improvements totaling $450,000, she said. "We'd like to redo the electrical system and upgrade the lighting and sound so we can do bigger shows."
The city "will keep working with the families to make sure we have more history to exhibit," said Ms. Riger.