Apr 01, 2022
One hundred years ago this April, Cleveland celebrated the opening of the Public Auditorium. At the time, it housed the largest convention hall in the nation. It was the fourth building completed of the seven planned to be constructed in a neoclassical style to surround the Mall area.
Planned before World War I, it was financed by a bond issue in 1916, but construction was not begun until 1920. The stage at one end of the hall had a proscenium - an architectural frame - opening of 72 feet wide and 42 feet high. The combined seating capacity of the main floor and galleries was 11,500. One of the largest pipe organs in existence was installed on the stage.
In 1929, another stage and theater, called the Music Hall, was added to the building, its stage placed back-to-back with the auditorium stage, therefore allowing the two halls to be united by raising a stage wall between them. The Music Hall held 2,800 seats.
Public Auditorium (sometimes referred to as Public Hall) has hosted many notable events, including the 1924 and 1936 Republican National Conventions. Over the decades, the auditorium has been a venue for performing arts, fairs, expositions and even sports events, including Cleveland State University basketball. In the 1930s and 1940s, its facilities made Cleveland a leading national convention center.
The 1932 the Auto Show was first held in the auditorium. The Home & Flower Show was held in the beginning in 1941 and continued to be held there for decades.
The auditorium also was the home for the Metropolitan Opera spring tour performances between 1924 and 1983. And on December 12, 1993, the Cleveland Orchestra held its 75th anniversary concert there.
It and the Music Hall also became a popular venue for roll rock ‘n’ roll. Some played Music Hall others Public Hall including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Supremes, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Queen, the Beach Boys, Prince and more. To see who played in each hall check the archives below.
The annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies have been held in Public Auditorium several times.
In the early 1960s, the entire north mall was excavated to create a vast underground convention center connected to the Public Auditorium, and the Hanna fountains were installed on the surface, flanked with trees and plantings.
In recent years, Music Hall has seen improvements including new chairs, new carpeting and a new roof. The other half of Public Auditorium is expected to get a new roof this year.