Described as ‘the greatest room for music and opera in the world’ the 4,200 seat Auditorium Theater of Roosevelt University in Chicago is known for its perfect acoustics, lavish architectural design and late 19th century engineering innovation. Part of a massive building with seventeen floors above ground and 2 at basement level, the theater was one of the earliest buildings to feature incandescent electric light bulbs of which 3,500 were installed in it, along with central air conditioning. Once completed it was the tallest building in Chicago, the largest in the US and the first multiuse building anywhere.
Other interesting aspects of the theater included an auditorium shaped like a cone for better acoustics, hydraulic lifts to move scenery and drop down ceiling panels that covered the upper levels to allow for more intimate theater performances. The theater occupies less than half the area of the 400,000 sq ft building. The other areas were occupied by a 400 room hotel and offices. In 1947 Roosevelt University moved into the building.
Having undergone several highs and lows it was rescued in 1967 by the untiring efforts of benefactors who raised funds to restore it so that visitors can still be wowed by the 24 karat gold leaf ceiling arches, hundreds of beautiful stencil patterns, gilded and bas relief designs and wall and floor mosaics by Charles Holloway and Albert Fleury and rightfully claim its place as one of Chicago’s most impressive historic landmarks as well as one of its oldest high rise buildings.
Administered by an independent nonprofit organization which is committed to presenting the finest in cultural and community programming to Chicago, today the theater hosts well known plays, modern and classical ballet performances by world renowned groups and performers, jazz, gospel music, pop and rock music performances among others and it is also the permanent home of the world renowned Joffrey Ballet. Having been a part of the lives of the people of Chicago for 120 years, it is expected that it will do so for the conceivable future.
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