1837 Chicago becomes a city with 4,170 inhabitants. William R. Ogden is elected the first mayor. Chicago’s first dramatic production The Idiot Witness or a Tale of Blood is performed in the Sauganash Hotel. Tickets are 75 cents.
1847 The first permanent theatre to be built in Chicago, Rice’s Theatre, opens on June 28th.
1856 Louis Sullivan is born September 3rd. John Van Osdel, Chicago’s first architect, designs the first cast-iron building for the Lake Street business district. Nearly 110,000 people now live in Chicago.
1870 Potter Palmer opens the first Palmer House Hotel on the corner of State and Monroe Streets. The building, designed by Van Osdel, moves the focus of downtown from Lake Street to State Street.
1871 Chicago Fire: On October 8, at just after 9:00pm, a fire starts in the barn behind the O’Leary cottage on DeKoven street. In the next two days, most of the central city is destroyed.
1875 Louis Sullivan returns to Chicago after studying architecture and design in Europe.
1879 Thomas Edison exhibits the light bulb for the first time.
1880 Although the steam elevator was patented in the 1850’s, the first hydraulic elevators were pioneered in Chicago in the 1880’s, making tall buildings possible.
1881 Louis Sullivan forms partnership with Dankmar Adler to create the architectural firm of Adler and Sullivan.
1885 William Le Baron Jenney completes the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, the first skyscraper to use a metal skeleton frame. Alder and Sullivan design a theater in the Interstate Exposition Building for the Chicago Opera Festival.
1886 Ferdinand Wythe Peck, a Chicago business man, incorporates the Chicago Auditorium Association on December 8th for the purpose of developing the world’s largest, grandest, most expensive theater. The building is to include an office block and a first class hotel. On the board are Marshall Field, Edson Keith, Martin Ryerson, George Pullman, and other Chicago business tycoons. Adler and Sullivan are hired to design the project, based on their work at the Interstate Exposition Building.
1887 October 5th, President Grover Cleveland lays the cornerstone for the Auditorium Building.
1888 The Republican National ConventionThe Republican National Convention is held in the partially finished Auditorium Building. Benjamin Harrison is nominated. Adler and Sullivan hire young draftsman Frank Lloyd Wright.
1889 Auditorium Theatre In July, the first tenant, the Chicago Conservatory of Music and Dramatic Art, moves into the Auditorium Building. On December 9th, President Benjamin Harrison dedicates the Theatre before a standing room only crowd. Operatic idol Adelina Patti sings “Home, Sweet Home”. Adler and Sullivan open their offices on the 16th and 17th floor of the Auditorium tower.
1891 The Chicago Symphony Orchestra debuts on October 16 and makes its home in the Auditorium Theatre until moving to Orchestra Hall in 1904.
1893 Chicago hosts the World’s Columbian Exposition. Thousands of visitors from all around the world come to view the exhibits and visit the Midway with its Ferris wheel. Many of them attend the grand historical pageant America, held in the Auditorium Theatre.
1900 Booker T. Washington, the founder of the first college for African-American teachers, Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, addresses a capacity crowd at the Auditorium Theatre.
1909 Daniel Burnham, one of Chicago’s best known architects, creates an organized plan for the growing city, preserving the lakefront as a park for the people.
1910 Chicago Civic Opera Company The Chicago Opera Association, later renamed the Chicago Civic Opera Company, takes up residence in the Auditorium Theatre, with its first performance on November 3rd.
1912 Theodore Roosevelt gives his Armageddon speech at the Auditorium and is nominated for President of the United States by the independent National Progressive Party. [IMAGE]
1919 The funeral of Cleofonte Campanini, conductor of the Chicago Opera Company, is held on the stage of the Auditorium Theatre.
1921 The Chicago Opera Company’s performance of Madam Butterfly is broadcast live from the Auditorium Theatre. It is Chicago’s first live radio broadcast.
1929 The Chicago Opera Company leaves the Auditorium for its new home on Wacker Drive, leaving the Auditorium Theatre without a major tenant.
1933 In the midst of the Great Depression, Chicago raises $125,000 to refurbish the Auditorium Theatre in time for the Century of Progress World’s Fair.
1939 The Auditorium Theatre celebrates its 50th Anniversary.
1941 The Auditorium Theatre closes during the Great Depression.
1942 The Auditorium Theatre is taken over by the city and used as a World War II Servicemen’s Center, complete with a bowling alley on the stage.
1946 Roosevelt University moves its operations into the Auditorium Building, but the Auditorium is not restored.
1952 In order to widen Congress Street, a sidewalk is created through the south end of the building, destroying the hotel cafe, the famous long bar, and other original public areas.
1960 Mrs. Beatrice T. Spachner establishes the Auditorium Theatre Council to raise funds for the restoration of the Theatre. Respected Chicago architect Harry Weese volunteers his services to restore the building to its former elegance.
1967 Auditorium Theatre reopens on October 31, the Auditorium Theatre reopens with the New York City Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
1968 Anti-Vietnam war protesters clash with police in the streets outside the Auditorium and the Congress Hotel during the Democratic National Convention.
1968-75 The Auditorium serves as Chicago’s premier rock house, with performances by Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead and many others.
1970 The Auditorium building is placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
1975 The Auditorium building obtains National Historic Landmark status.
1976 The Auditorium building is designated a Chicago landmark.
1989 The Auditorium Theatre’s 100th birthday. Les Miserables opens, ushering in a new era of Broadway blockbusters at the Auditorium.
1992 The Auditorium Theatre commemorates the 25th anniversary of its grand reopening.
1997 The Auditorium Theatre celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Auditorium’s grand reopening. The Auditorium continues its mission to present international, cultural and local community programming and its commitment to the restoration and preservation of the National Landmark Theatre.
1998 The Joffrey Ballet begins their “In Residence” at the Auditorium.
2000 The Auditorium Theatre receives a $13 million state grant to be used toward ongoing restoration efforts.
2001 The Auditorium begins the first phase of its major restoration project, which includes paint analysis throughout the theatre, restoring the proscenium, seating area, and remarkable ceiling arches of the theatre to the original colors and finishes.
2002 The Theatre initiates Phase II of its ongoing restoration project, highlighted by the removal and reconstruction of the theatre’s 113-year old stage. The Theatre’s versatility is increased by the construction of a new trap system and new orchestra pit with three separate lifts and removable seating. Phase II is completed by the installation of new artist support spaces, dressing rooms, and modern amenities.
The world-famous Bolshoi Ballet returns to the Auditorium, performing to sold-out crowds and rave reviews.
2003 The legal dispute between Auditorium Theatre Council and Roosevelt University is resolved. Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, Inc. is established.
2004 Broadway in Chicago joins The Joffrey Ballet as an Auditorium Theatre partner. Brett Batterson is hired as Executive Director.
2005 The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University launches its award-winning summer camp, Hands Together, Heart to Art.
2006 The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University presents its first self-produced performance, Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz Gospel Messiah.
2008 On November 1, grand opera returns to the Auditorium with the Chicago premiere of Richard Danielpour and Toni Morrison’s Margaret Garner, with Denyce Graves in the title role.
The Auditorium hosts the memorial service for The Joffrey Ballet’s co-founder Gerald Arpino on November 17, 2008
2009 The Auditorium celebrates its 120th birthday by transforming the stage into a 200-seat black box theater for a production of The Mistress Cycle.
2011 The Auditorium produces a four month city-wide Miles Davis Festival, which includes the Auditorium’s first ever commission; a piece titled “Simply Miles, Simply Us” by Frank Chaves of River North Dance Chicago.
2012 On March 12, the Auditorium hosts the Elevator Dedication to celebrate the addition of a long-anticipated renovation. The elevator gives access to all six levels of the theater.
The Auditorium Theatre dedicates its Katten/Landau Studio in Roosevelt’s new Wabash building on June 6. The studio serves as rehearsal space for visiting companies and is convertible to a black box for cabaret performances in the Auditorium’s Katten/Landau Studio Series.
2013 The Auditorium Theatre commissions the five-month long MUSIC + MOVEMENT FESTIVAL, welcoming some of the best Chicago musicians and dance companies for a celebration spanning February through June 2013. In a series of collaborations, 11 dance companies pair off with musicians to create brand new works.
2014 The Auditorium Theatre announces the 125th Anniversary Season to be celebrated from September 2014 – August 2015. Learn more about our 125th here.