Press Release | Washington, DC | January 27, 2015

National Trust for Historic Preservation Names Chautauqua Amphitheater One of America’s National Treasures

Chautauqua Institution’s plan to destroy amphitheater threatens national landmark

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced today that it is naming the Chautauqua Amphitheater, a National Historic Landmark located 70 miles southwest of Buffalo, N.Y., a National Treasure. Known as the Amp, the Chautauqua Amphitheater, which has hosted a wide range of leaders, activists and artists over its 122-year history, is threatened by the Chautauqua Institution’s plan to demolish the Amp to make way for a replica.

The National Trust has supported the Chautauqua Institution in the past for their thoughtful stewardship. A coalition of preservation groups, including the National Trust, is now calling on the Institution’s distinguished Board of Trustees to reconsider the need to replace this unique, storied structure. The Amp is an authentic and important part of the Institutions’ history of intellectual engagement, entertainment and debate.

“There are many significant cultural historic sites in America, but there is only one original Chautauqua Amphitheater,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO, National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The plan to demolish the Amp would tear at the heart of Chautauqua, and compromise the historic character that many Chautauquans and visitors from around the country deeply value. It also threatens the National Historic Landmark status of this nationally significant place.”

While the National Trust is pleased with the Institution’s recent announcement to postpone any decisions on the Amphitheater project until August, we encourage the Institution to recognize and embrace the value of the authentic building as a starting point for a renewed dialogue. The National Trust is encouraging the Institution to work closely and openly with local and statewide preservationists who have offered their assistance to come up with an alternative plan that respects the key historic features of the Amp while accommodating necessary and needed improvements. The National Trust is partnering with Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the Preservation League of New York State, the Committee to Preserve the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheater, and many others, in this effort.

“We had the opportunity to advise the Institution during the early Amp planning process but somewhere along the line the preservation values that were set for this project got lost,” said Jay DiLorenzo, President of the Preservation League of New York State. “We join the National Trust in urging the Board to re-evaluate preservation-based options for rehabilitating the structure.”

“PBN is eager to employ its energies to help develop an alternative plan that preserves the historic character of the Amp, while improving the facility to meet modern needs,” said Peter Flynn, co-chair of the Preservation Buffalo Niagara board. “Once a building like the Amp is lost, it can never be replaced,” he added.

Chautauqua transformed American life as the first multi-use retreat in the U.S. that is an arts colony, music festival, village square and summer encampment all at once, spawning dozens of “daughter” Chautauquas throughout the U.S. Chautuaqua programs have explored important religious, social and political issues of the day; engaged individuals and families in response to these issues; and fostered excellence in the appreciation, performance and teaching of the arts. Historical figures who have spoken at, performed at or visited Chautauqua include Franklin Delano Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, Bobby Kennedy, Lionel Hampton, Marian Anderson, Van Cliburn, Booker T. Washington, both Bill and Hillary Clinton and Sandra Day O’Connor.

American Express is Presenting Partner of the National Treasures program, and has pledged $6.5 million to help promote and enable the preservation of these cultural and historic places.

More information can be found at: http://www.savingplaces.org/treasures/chautauqua-amphitheater

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Suggested tweet: Preservation coalition launches campaign to save #Chautauqua Amphitheater and preserve National Historic Landmark http://www.savingplaces.org/chautauqua-amphitheater

About the National Treasures Program

National Treasures are a portfolio of highly significant historic places throughout the country where the National Trust makes a long-term commitment to finding a preservation solution.

About Preservation Buffalo Niagara

The leading preservation voice in the Niagara Frontier, Preservation Buffalo Niagara advocates on behalf of historic buildings, sites and neighborhoods, works with owners to preserve their properties, educates the public on preservation matters important to Western New York, and celebrates our architectural heritage through tours, workshops and conferences. www.PreservationBuffaloNiagara.org

About Preservation League of New York State

The Preservation League of New York State invests in people and projects that champion the essential role of preservation in community revitalization, sustainable economic growth, and the protection of historic buildings and landscapes. They lead advocacy, economic development, and education programs across New York State.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
SavingPlaces.org | @savingplaces

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