The Chautauqua Amphitheatre, One of the Nation's Most Significant Historic Theatres and a National Historic Landmark, is Threatened With Demolition

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The Chautauqua Institution's plan for 'The Amp' calls for the demolition of every defining element of the Amphitheatre's character and architectural significance. Theatre Historical Society of America joins with other national organizations like the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation in urging the Chautauqua Institution's board of directors to reconsider the demolition plan and instead vote for rehabilitation of the historic structure when they meet on 29 August.

The Chautauqua Amphitheater: A Rehabilitation Approach by CJS Architects, with the Committee to Preserve the Amphitheatre

The Chautauqua Amphitheater: A Rehabilitation Approach by CJS Architects, with the Committee to Preserve the Amphitheatre

The aura of history that fills a structure like the Chautauqua Amphitheatre is intangible yet unmistakable. Future generations deserve the opportunity to experience its unique presence. Craig Morrison, AIA, THS Board President, Theatre Scholar

Theatre Historical Society of America (THSA) joins members of the community and preservation organizations expressing concern for the future of this nationally significant architectural and cultural landmark. In 2015 the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Chautauqua Amphitheatre one of America's 11 Most Endangered Places. On 29 August 2015 the Chautauqua Institution Board of Directors will vote on a plan that favors demolishing the Amphitheatre despite preservation organizations and concerned groups presenting a comprehensive and viable plan for rehabilitation of the historic structure.

The Chautauqua Amphitheatre is one of the best remaining examples of 19th century outdoor theatre architecture in America. The names of historical figures that have lectured and performed in this building are second to none. In addition to its architectural significance, the Chautauqua Amphitheatre has been part of the Institute’s cultural fabric for more than 100 years. This venerable building, along with the entire Chautauqua Movement has been widely respected, embraced, and loved by Americans across the country.

THS joins the Committee to Preserve The Historic Chautauqua Amphitheatre and other organizations to stress the importance of the building to the Chautauqua Institution trustees in advance of the 29 August meeting and vote. The significance of the Amphitheatre’s architectural and cultural relevance cannot be overstated. Demolishing this historic structure and replacing it with a modern replica represents a tragic and unnecessary loss of a historically significant and much loved national treasure.

“The aura of history that fills a structure like the Chautauqua Amphitheatre is intangible yet unmistakable. If it is lost it can have no true replacement. A replica building, no matter how carefully designed, would inevitably be sterile. The original’s spirit would be gone; its irreplaceable soul lost forever. The Theatre Historical Society of America celebrates our nation’s rich heritage of theater buildings. Future generations deserve the opportunity to experience its unique presence.”
Craig Morrison, AIA, THS Board President, Theatre Scholar

While refinements may be needed for public safety and production the enhancements can be introduced in a minimal and imaginative way. Recently released engineering reports state the building is stable. The Amphitheatre is a notable and irreplaceable piece of the community’s and the nation’s theatre history. Future generations deserve the opportunity to experience its unique presence.

For nearly fifty years, Theatre Historical Society of America (THSA) has celebrated, documented, and promoted the architectural, cultural, and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Historic buildings do not exist in a vacuum. These structures must be considered within their social context, their impact upon the people who attended them for movies, music, or live shows, and their contribution to the life and vitality of the streets in the neighborhoods where they were found.

Learn more about the Chautauqua Amphitheatre, the controversial demolition plan, and efforts to preserve and rehabilitate on the Committee to Preserve the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheatre website.

ABOUT THEATRE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA: Founded by Ben Hall in 1969, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) celebrates, documents and promotes the architectural, cultural and social relevance of America’s historic theatres. Through its preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive, its signature publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres. Learn more about historic theatres on our website at http://www.historictheatres.org.

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Catherine Olteanu
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