430 S. Michigan Ave. / Chicago
- The Theatre (January 1911) -
- Auditorium / 2012 -
Ferdinand Peck, a Chicago businessman, incorporated the Chicago Auditorium Association in December 1886 to develop what he wanted to be the world's
largest, grandest, most expensive theater that would rival such institutions as the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. He was said to have wanted
to make high culture accessible to the working classes of Chicago.
The building was to include an office block and a first class hotel. Peck persuaded many Chicago business tycoons to go on board with him, including
Marshall Field, Edson Keith, Martin A. Ryerson, Charles L. Hutchinson and George Pullman. The association hired the renowned architectural firm of
Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan to design the building. At the time, a young Frank Lloyd Wright was employed at the firm as draftsman, and he may
have contributed to the design.
The Auditorium was built for a syndicate of businessmen to house a large civic opera house; to provide an economic base it was decided to wrap the
auditorium with a hotel and office block. Hence Adler & Sullivan had to plan a complex multiple-use building. Fronting on Michigan Avenue, overlooking
the lake, was the hotel (now Roosevelt University) while the offices were placed to the west on Wabash Avenue. The entrance to the auditorium is on the
south side beneath the tall blocky eighteen-story tower. The rest of the building is a uniform ten stories, organized in the same way as Richardson's
Marshall Field Wholesale Store. The interior embellishment, however, is wholly Sullivan's, and some of the details, because of their continuous
curvilinear foliate motifs, are among the nearest equivalents to European Art Nouveau architecture.
- dining room -
On October 5, 1887, President Grover Cleveland laid the cornerstone for the Auditorium Building. The 1888 Republican National Convention was held in a
partially finished building where Benjamin Harrison was nominated as a presidential candidate. On December 9, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison dedicated
the building and opera star Adelina Patti sang "Home Sweet Home" to thunderous applause. Adler & Sullivan had also opened their offices
on the 16th and 17th floors of the Auditorium tower.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra debuted on October 16, 1891, and made its home in the Auditorium Theatre until moving to Orchestra Hall in 1904.
The opera company renting the accommodation moved to the Civic Opera House in 1929, and the Auditorium Theatre closed during the Great Depression.
In 1941, it was taken over by the city of Chicago to be used as a World War II servicemen's center. By 1946, Roosevelt University moved into the
Auditorium Building, but the theater was not restored to its former splendor. In 1952, Congress Parkway was widened, bringing the curb to the southern
edge of the building. To make room for a sidewalk, some ground-floor rooms and part of the theater lobby were removed and a sidewalk arcade created.
It was declared a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 1975. The building was equipped with the first central air
conditioning system and the theater was the first to be entirely lit by incandescent light bulbs. In 2001, a major restoration of the Auditorium Theatre
was begun by Daniel P. Coffey and Associates in conjunction with EverGreene Architectural Arts to return the theater to its original colors and finishes.
Programs available from this theatre:
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