Magazine article Journal of Property Management

The Jewel of the Queen City: The Historic Music Hall in Cincinnati Is One of the Country's Great Theaters and Has Continued to Evolve through 137-Year History

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

The Jewel of the Queen City: The Historic Music Hall in Cincinnati Is One of the Country's Great Theaters and Has Continued to Evolve through 137-Year History

Article excerpt

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Just north of downtown, Cincinnati sits the city's cultural hub: Music Hall. Owned by the City of Cincinnati, Music Hall was built 1878 and is one of the largest theaters of its kind in the U.S.

Designed by architect Samuel Hannaford, Music Hall is a High Victorian Gothic building that boasts more than three million bricks. It is adorned with garrets, turrets and gables, all embellished with opulent limestone ornaments and carvings. Reminiscent of designs in European cathedrals, the rose window on the east facade is one of the building's most recognizable features. It leads into the Music Hall's multipurpose theater, which includes an auditorium, convention hall and ballroom, along with offices, dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces.

Throughout the city's history, Music Hall has been a beacon of the arts. Even when Cincinnati faced violent riots in the 1970s, Music Hall was untouched--exemplifying the residents' loyalty to and respect for the theater.

"It is hard to compare any American theater to the grand concert halls of Europe, but Music Hall stands well in that comparison," said Scott Santangelo, director of Operations at Music Hall. "It is a holdover from a golden age that reflects the vision, enthusiasm and ambitions of a young nation."

HISTORIC ROOTS

After the Civil War, many Germans immigrated to the area north of Cincinnati's downtown, establishing the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood where Music Hall is today.

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The Germans brought a love of music to the city. In 1869, the residents pooled their resources to build Saengerhalle, a multipurpose building that hosted a number of singing groups and choral competitions, including the first May Festival (a large choral event) in 1873.

During the second May Festival in 1875, a violent thunderstorm dumped hail on the roof of the building and postponed the performance. Fortuitously, retired Cincinnati businessman and philanthropist Reuben Springer was in the audience that night, and he recognized the need for the city to have a grand concert hall. He pledged to cover half of the cost to build the theater if the residents and city raised the rest. After they raised the funds, Saengerhalle was demolished and construction of Music Hall began in 1876. It was completed just weeks before the third May Festival in 1878.

Through the years, Over-the-Rhine has faced a number of ups and downs. Yet Music Hall has remained a constant source of pride. Currently, the neighborhood is undergoing a budding renaissance. A number of redevelopment projects--including the $40 million, award-winning restoration of Washington Park and $70 million development of the School for Performing Arts--are revitalizing the neighborhood.

MELDING YESTERDAY AND TODAY

Through its 137-year history, Music Hall has evolved to serve modern needs, while staying true to its historic roots. Music Hall is still home to the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra, Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Ballet and the May Festival.

Today, however, its reach extends beyond the fine arts, as well. Popular musicians like Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, the White Stripes and Miles Davis have performed at the theater. Music Hall has also hosted political affairs, including the Democratic National Convention in 1880 and, more recently, one of President Obama's town hall meetings during his 2012 campaign. …

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