Exterior of amphitheater obscured by modern bleachers

photo by: Jay A. Reeve

Lost

National Treasures

Chautauqua Amphitheater

  • Constructed: 1893
  • Architect: Ellis G. Hall & Lewis Miller
  • Location: Chautauqua, New York

“Once gone, or dramatically changed, many structures lose their soul and their importance. They become like so much else in our modern society: generic and replaceable. I for one would rather have Wrigley Field with obstructed sightlines and cramped seating than a gutted and modernized ballpark indistinguishable from so many others. And I feel the same way about the Amphitheater.”

Author Jonathan Eig

Built in 1893, the Chautauqua Amphitheater was the "beating heart" of a National Historic Landmark District located 70 miles southwest of Buffalo, NY.

Internationally recognized as a forum for American culture and history, the 4,000-seat, open-air structure hosted a wide range of leaders, activists, and artists over its 122-year history. FDR delivered his “I Hate War” speech there in August of 1936. William Jennings Bryan, Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, and Bobby Kennedy all walked its boards, as did Ella Fitzgerald, Lionel Hampton, Marian Anderson, Susan B. Anthony, Van Cliburn, Amelia Earhart, Booker T. Washington, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Sandra Day O’Connor, to name a few.

Despite this rich history, the Chautauqua Institution announced in fall 2014 its intent to demolish the historic Amp to make way for a replica with updated amenities. Lead by the National Trust, a coalition of preservation organizations, architects, and community stakeholders fought plans to demolish this iconic place where over a century of American history happened, arguing that authenticity can never be replaced and that the existing Amp – like many historic performance venues across the country – could be thoughtfully renovated to meet modern needs.

Unfortunately, in December 2015, the Chautauqua Institution's Board of Trustees voted to accept a $41.5 million bid to demolish the Amp. By September 2016, the demolition was complete.

The National Trust would like to thank all of the supporters who joined our campaign, as well as our strong coalition of partners. Your voice and hard work was instrumental in our efforts, and we are grateful for your dedication to our mission of saving places for future generations.

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