The need for an arts center was spearheaded in 1886 by a group of prominent and wealthy Chicagoans. These types of centers, though, were often not profitable. So when the firm of Adler and Sullivan accepted the commission to construct the Auditorium Building, offices and a hotel were planned as well, making it the biggest building project in Chicago's history at the time.
The engineering genius of Dankmar Adler was at its height in the complicated construction and machinery needed to make the mass of the auditorium function. Louis Sullivan's understanding of space arrangement makes the interior coherent and it is in these spaces that one can see the organic ornament that was his specialty. Outside, the first three stories are rusticated gray granite and the upper seven are dressed Indiana buff limestone. A cast-iron interior frame was used with wrought-iron trusses; concrete reinforced with timber and steel rails was employed to equalize settlement of the building. Inside, the rich ornamentation employs by a variety of materials, including onyx, marble and wood.
The Auditorium Building operated successfully until the Great Depression. It closed in 1940 until Roosevelt University bought the building six years later. Committed to a proper restoration, the theater reopened in 1967 and has continuously contributed to the arts scene in Chicago.
The Auditorium Building is located at 430 S. Michigan Ave. Open to the public, and owned by Roosevelt University, it is used for major theatrical events, graduation exercises, occasional university concerts and other events.
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