Filene Center: Past & Present

Filene Center I, taken in 1971.
Filene Center I, during its inaugural performance season in 1971.

NPS Photo

On July 1, 1971, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, (then called Wolf Trap Farm Park) officially opened the gates of its premiere performing arts venue, the Filene Center. This 10-story, 6,200+ capacity theater quickly became the flagship attraction in the first and only national park dedicated exclusively to the performing arts. However, after a fire destroyed the structure in 1982, Catherine Filene Shouse in close collaboration with the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts and the federal government began a campaign to rebuild the theater. While the new theater (Filene Center II) looks very similar to its original counterpart, there were some key changes made to the structure and capacity of the venue.


Construction of Filene Center II, May - August 1983

Construction site of Filene Center II. Construction site of Filene Center II.

Left image
Filene Center II, May 2, 1983
Credit: Photo courtesy of G & C Construction Corporation, 1983.

Right image
Filene Center II, August 1, 1983
Credit: Photo courtesy of G & C Construction Corporation, 1983.

Filene Center I
(1971 – 1982)
Filene Center II
(1984 – present)
Construction Start March 1969 December 1982
Opening Ceremony/Dedication May 27, 1970
Mrs. Richard M. Nixon
June 20, 1984
Mr. Edwin Meese
First Performance July 1, 1971 July 30, 1984
Wood Oregon Cedar Steel beams with fire-retardant Douglas Fir siding
Roofing Painted aluminum Copper
Building Height 10 stories 13 stories (125 ft)
Proscenium Arch 70'8" wide x 28' 70' wide x 44'8" high
Number of Fly Lines 109 100 (104 prior to 2022)
Stage Floor 97' wide x 63'10" deep 125' wide x 60' deep
Total Seating Capacity 6,262 7,028
The Filene Center viewed from the Plaza under blue skies
Filene Center II looks very similar to Filene Center I, though it is taller, made of different materials, and can accommodate more people.

NPS / Will Rifenbark

Today, hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over the mid-Atlantic region and the country flock to the Filene Center (II) to enjoy the performing arts in a natural setting. Each year, approximately 70-80 shows are presented at the Filene Center, ranging from rock concerts to ballets, and from operas to folk performances.

Last updated: March 24, 2023

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