An Overview of the History of Music Hall

In 1875, the second Cincinnati Musical Festival was underway in Exposition Hall. During the third part of the evening's performance, which was composed of extracts from ''Lohengrin,'' a thunderstorm pelted the city. The sound of the rain on the structure's tin roof was so noisy that Music Director Theodore Thomas had to stop the performance! Cincinnati businessman Reuben R. Springer grew impatient as he waited for the musical festival to resume. ''We need a new building,'' he thought to himself. ''Cincinnati has a classical chorus, a first-rate orchestra and a budding reputation as one of the arts capitals of the world. It is only fitting we also have a musical hall.''

His thoughts became a plan, and Cincinnati's Music Hall was built.

Rendering of Music Hall Cincinnati Music Hall, an elegant century-old building, stands majestically at the corner of 14th and Elm - just a short walk from the city's center. Dedicated at the time of the fourth May Festival in 1878, Music Hall has endured famously over the years, a testament to those individuals who conceived it and to those who continue to contribute to its grandeur. In January, 1975, it was recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

In reality three separate buildings seemingly under one roof, Music Hall was designed originally for unique and dual purposes - to house musical activities in a center area and industrial exhibitions in its side wings. It has played host to a wide number of activities, ranging from traditional symphony concerts and theatrical performances to the Democratic National Convention of 1880, and expositions, such as the Cincinnati Industrial Expositions, home and garden shows, automobile shows, basketball games, tennis matches, wrestling matches, and more! In many ways, Cincinnati's Music Hall was our city's Convention Center until the present Convention Center was built in the late 1960s.

an image of Springer Auditorium Music Hall is best known, however, for its central portion, the elegant and acoustically acclaimed Springer Auditorium where Cincinnati's Symphony Orchestra, May Festival, Opera, and Ballet companies and other productions hold performances. These walls are decorated in hues of burgundy and French gray, gold and white. Across the stage hangs a red curtain and the red motif is carried out in velvet upholstered chairs and carpeted floors.

In the domed center of the ceiling of the auditorium, an oil painting by Arthur Thomas depicts an ''Allegory of the Arts''. This was added as part of the first renovation. Suspended from the center of the dome is a dramatic chandelier of brass and thousands of hand-cut crystals, seemingly light and airy but actually weighing two tons. This and the five smaller chandeliers in the main foyer were part of the 1969 renovation.

This great Victorian pile of 3,858,000 red pressed bricks is an architectural eccentric, with its garrets, turrets, gables, insets, nooks and broken surfaces and planes. It was designed by the Cincinnati firm of Hannaford and Procter and built in the grand style of the day, often referred to as ''modified modernized Gothic'' or ''romantic eclecticism,'' it is more properly known as ''high Victorian Gothic Revival''.

Music Hall 2005 exterior The length of the building on Elm Street is 372 feet, the depth from Elm to Central Parkway is 293 feet and the highest point is the pinnacle of the front gable 150 feet above the sidewalk. It covers an area of 2-1/2 acres. A large rose window is a prominent feature of the front facade.

The present rear entrance to Music Hall is located on Central Parkway, which was the Miami Canal at the time the building was completed in 1878. Patrons could approach by carriage as well as on foot or by boat.

part of the foyer near the ticket office The Main Foyer, where patrons have always promenaded during intermissions of various events, also serves as a gallery honoring contributors, individuals and significant events in the life of Music Hall. Here can be seen the statues or busts of the famous conductors Theodore Thomas and Max Rudolf. Early composers and patrons are represented by Reuben Springer, Stephen Foster and Charles Aiken. J. Ralph Corbett represents the present day.

Above the Main Foyer is Corbett Tower, whose gold decor compliments the sparkle of its chandeliers.

Music Hall possesses one of the largest and best-equipped stages in the world. A 90-ton steel grid framework is used to suspend scenery and lighting. It rests on the original foundations of the 1844 Orphan Asylum, one of the early occupants of the site. The house lights, stage lights and the public address system are controlled by a computerized control-console in the lighting cage at the right of the stage. A double hydraulic lift operates the apron of the stage which may be lowered to form an orchestra pit.

north hall set up for a boxing match North Hall, which used to house a 6000 seat sport arena, now contains the Corbett Opera Center, which includes administrative and production offices, a rehearsal room, reception area and box office for the Cincinnati Opera; a scenery storage area, carpenter shop, and rehearsal hall. On the second floor of the South Hall, a spacious and elegant ballroom hosts events ranging from antique shows to high school proms to large dinners and receptions. The first floor houses offices, the Green Room and dressing rooms. Escalators to all three floors are located on the South side of the Foyer. Subsurfaces are of limestone taken from the same quarries that produced the sturdy piers of the Suspension Bridge.


More on the history of Music Hall can be found here.

The Cincinnati Historical Society Library at the Cincinnati Museum Center has publications and photos on Music Hall, including:

What happened? Early drawings of Music Hall show figures - an angel with two children - on the peak of the roof. However, this architectural detail doesn't appear in a photo taken ten years after the structure's completion and no mention is made of it in articles about Music Hall.

Discover more about historic sites in Southwestern Ohio and Northern Kentucky at Museums & Historic Sites of Greater Cincinnati.

The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has books and resources on Music Hall's history and architecture:

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