A National Historic Landmark, the Auditorium Theatre is known internationally for its perfect acoustics, innovative architecture, and stunning design.
The Auditorium Theatre began with a Chicago business man named Ferdinand Wythe Peck. He was dedicated to improving the city of Chicago and after the Haymarket Square riot in 1886 he began plans for the Auditorium Building, that included the theatre, as well as an office block and hotel. He envisioned a theatre for all Chicagoans, and incorporates the Chicago Auditorium Association for the purpose of developing the world’s largest, grandest, most expensive building.
The famous architectural firm of Adler and Sullivan designed this 4,000 seat theatre in 1889 using modern technology, including electric lighting and air conditioning. They pushed the limits of modern architecture to make the Auditorium the tallest building in Chicago, the first multi-use building ever designed and the most massive modern edifice in the world for its time.
Though the Auditorium opened to immense critical acclaim, what began as a masterfully-designed opera house that sprang from the minds of geniuses gradually fell into disrepair. For decades the Auditorium Theatre continued its decline before experiencing an astounding resurgence in the 1960’s, and ultimately returning to its former status as a jewel in American history.
Thanks to multiple restoration and conservation projects, visitors again enjoy the radiant 24-karat gold-leafed ceiling arches, hundreds of Sullivan’s beautifully restored intricate stencil patterns, ornate gilded and bas-relief designs, and the endless floor and wall mosaics and murals by Charles Holloway and Albert Fleury.
For 127 years, the Auditorium Theatre has evolved, each decade ushering in a new challenge and a new voice. From the operatic glory of the theater’s inception to the rock-and-roll concerts of the 1960’s and 70’s, from a setting for the world’s most legendary musicals to the greatest ballets, the Auditorium Theatre’s programming has adapted and grown, but has always remained dedicated to providing the highest quality of artistic experiences while preserving the storied principles upon which it was founded.
Former Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley gave speeches where, years later, incandescent musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Aretha Franklin, and Elton John performed. Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles captivated audiences in the same space where Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera once played to sold-out crowds. Whether Frank Sinatra or Itzhak Perlman, The Beach Boys or Booker T. Washington, those of us here at the Auditorium Theatre are proud of all those who have graced the stage, but we are always focused on improving and enhancing the quality of our lineup—for a Landmark Theatre in one of the world’s greatest cities, nothing else will suffice.
Today, the programming here has now come full-circle. While we as an organization continue to provide unparalleled ballet performances such as American Ballet Theatre and the The Royal Ballet, we are ever mindful of the diversity and complexity of the landscape that surrounds us. The Auditorium’s current repertoire embraces the diversity and multiculturalism of our audiences with performances that include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Too Hot to Handel, Tango Buenos Aires, as well as providing a space for multiple concerts throughout the year.
For a more in-depth look at the Auditorium Theatre’s historical moments, please view the Historic Timeline.