Cleveland's Public Auditorium
Situated in the heart of Cleveland’s business district is a concert venue that has hosted such royalty of rock as Queen, The Beatles, R.E.M. and Madonna. At its opening in 1922, the city’s Public Auditorium was the largest convention hall in the nation.
As the fourth of the civic structures erected in conformance with the classically formatted Group Plan of 1903, Public Auditorium was also designed in Classic revival style, modeled after the Italian Renaissance. It was crafted by then City Architect J. H. MacDowell, assisted by Frederick H. Betz as well as Frank R. Walker of the locally renowned architectural firm of Walker & Weeks.
Situated at the nexus of East Sixth Street, and Lakeside Avenue, the Auditorium spans a broad city block along the eastern flank of the downtown core’s public Mall B. The granite structure presents its long, pale, understated façade to the mall, capped by an articulated cornice with the inscription “A Monument Conceived as a Tribute to the Ideals of Cleveland, Builded by Her Citizens and Dedicated to Social Progress, Industrial Achievement and Civic Interests”.
With a total seating capacity of 11,500 arranged throughout its gently arched and column-free interior, Public Auditorium drew the Republican National Conventions of both 1924 and 1936 to the city. The main hall also features a massive stage (104’ x 60’), a cavernous proscenium arch (72’ x 42’), and one of the world’s largest pipe organs. Cleveland’s Music Hall, a 2,800-seat ‘small hall’, was added in 1929 to the southern end of the main auditorium. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the grand hall and its supporting facilities kept Cleveland in the forefront of contenders for major conventions, fairs, sporting events, exhibits and concerts.
In 1932, a major underground exhibition facility — running beneath Mall B and connecting to Public Auditorium’s basement exhibit hall — was completed, giving birth to a new and expanded Cleveland Convention Center. To add convention space and parking, a major overhaul of that facility was developed in the mid-1960s by the local architectural firm of Outcalt, Guenther, Rode & Bonebrake.
In recent decades, and despite a 1983 renovation of the Convention Center, Public Auditorium’s presence in the public eye has been eclipsed by such newer meeting and entertainment facilities as Quicken Loans (formerly Gund) Arena, the Wolstein Center (Cleveland State University’s Convocation Center), Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field) and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. However, it reminded citizens of its former glory, with the 1993 staging of the Cleveland Orchestra’s 75th Anniversary Concert, and the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies.
As Cleveland currently plans a potentially complete reassessment and reconstruction of its Convention Center and related Medical Mart, the future and role of Public Auditorium remain in question.
One of the best venues for seeing The Beatles, Creedence, The Who and Led Zeppelin.
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The Convention Board of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, organized by the early 1920s, was behind the development of meeting and exhibit facilities at Clevelands Public Auditorium.
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