Central Music Hall
Life Span: 1879-1901
Location: Southeast corner of State and Randolph Streets
Architect: Dankmar Adler
Central Music Hall, 1889
The Inter Ocean, December 5, 1879
In the article giving certain facts concerning the new Central Music Hall, the other morning, an extended description of its construction was purposely omitted. Since then obstructions have been cleared away, seats put in, and the place prepared for a critical visitation. By a preconcerted arrangement, a coterie of newspaper men and correspondents met in the building at noon yesterday, and were escorted throughout its traversable length, breadth, and entire internal extent by George B. Carpenter. The result of the inspection was the convincing of all parties that the hall is one of the most artistically arranged in this or any other country. Indeed it is doubtful if anywhere there can be found a building more thoroughly or more admirably adapted to its purposes. Not he most insignificant detail seems to have been overlooked, and in everything a fine system of arrangement has been observed.
The party entered first by the court door, on the east side of the building, reserved for the use of artists and performers entering to the dressing rooms and stage. Immediately south of this entrance is a long, declining arcade, down which will be run the baggage and accessories, more conveniently connecting with a rear receiving room. Entering the doorway referred to, the party descended a stairway to the right, which led down to a well-lighted hall, being under that part of the auditorium immediately in front of the stage. To the right of this is
A Large Assembly room, capable of holding 450 chorus people or others. At the east end of this is a cloak-room for the deposit of street apparel. To the left of the hall are four rooms, the first being the janitor’s. From this room the ubiquitous functionary can command a full view of the auditorium, direct the adjustment of lights, and otherwise make himself useful. The other three rooms are handsome dressing rooms for artists. They are =ell-lighted and thoroughly ventilated by a current of outside air. There are commodes, closets, and every convenience in them. The floors are to be covered with rich carpets, comfortable chairs will be put in, and a thoroughly appointed and cozy boudoir will be presented. At the east end of this hall, under the box office, is the fan operated for heating and ventilation purposes. This fan acts on the steam-heating arrangement most completely. The coil-room is immediately off from this. The engine-rooms are under the Randolph street sidewalk. The steam is generated there and driven into the coils. The steam heats the air, and the fan drives this hot air into the auditorium through grated apertures, and by this means, there being air vents along the upper walls, the air in the hall is changed and renewed every eighteen minutes. Stepping out of the fan-room, a narrow court is reached. Here, overhead, is seen a covered balcony, along which the stage can be reached from the main entrance, State street, thus obviating the necessity of passing through the auditorium from that quarter. Leaving the last of the three dressing-rooms, a little hall leads to a back stairway, by which the green-room, immediately right, or west, of the stage is reached. This is a very handsome room, somewhat in the shape of a triangle, commodious, handsomely furnished, ventilated, and well-lighted. The stage, or platform, is 28 feet deep by 53 feet wide. It is large enough to accommodate 175 singers, including chorus and stars, and a piano. It is roomy enough for orchestra of 100 pieces. The property-room is to the left, or east, of the stage. The space which in theaters is occupied by the proscenium boxes will here
Central Music Hall
Accommodate the Organ.
This instrument will be in two parts, placed in the large niches each side oif the stage. It will be sixteen feet above the stage, the places for its reception being sixteen feet wide by forty high. The organist will sit in a pulpit raised sixteen feet above the stage flooring, built against the back wall of the stage, which will place him mid-way between the two halves of the organ. The object of this is to enable the performer in concert to depart from a rigid temps, playing an obligato or concert effect at will, comprehending the sounds of the orchestral instruments, and not drowned in the volume of his organ performance. This is an unusual and highly commendable arrangement. Directly in front of the stage a space is reserved for the orchestra. The view of the house offered from the stage is excellent, comprehending every part and seat in the house, above and below. The seating capacity is 2,000. There is ample room for 600 more, but the comfortable arrangement of the seats gives each person plenty of room. The seats are twenty-two inches wide. The bottoms are made of leather, instead of the abominable plush, which proves so aggravating. These opera chairs are of an entirely new design, made from a special pattern. The backs are reclining, and the rest comes only upon the shoulders and a little beneath, making the position very easy and pleasant. The arm-rests are so constructed that two people can rest their elbows upon them at once, and there is no crowding or disagreeable jostling. Beneath the seats are racks for hats, so fashioned that they will hold any sort of hat. Many of the features of these seats are original with Mr. Carpenter.
In the design of this house, care has been exercised to guard the uniformity of the sight lines, so that the construction is somewhat novel, being unlike any other hall or theater. This has led Mr. Carpenter to revive the old nomenclature for the division of the seats. The central portion is called the parquet, the circle around the parquet circle. The first balcony, which is but eight feet, at the pitch base, from the parquet, will be called the dress circle, and the tiers above will be called the balcony proper. Another novelty is the introduction of the stall system. In the parquet circle there are ten upholstered stalls, surrounded by a close-work high wire railing. These are upholstered and furnished with cushioned movable chairs. In the dress circle there are eight of these stalls, similarly furnished. In the balcony are six pavilion boxes or pagodas, highly ornate. These are described further on. All the seats of the parquet circle, with the exception of one row, are out from under the dress circle. This arrangement permits the existence of a handsome foyer at the north end of the hall. This foyer is 26 feet wide by 80 feet in length, handsomely carpeted, set off by tufted panels of Spanish leather, and four superb ten-foot mirrors. This foyer is used for promenade or retiring space. Opening west from this is a large, finely appointed gentlemen’s smoking room. The Randolph street exit is reached from the foyer. At each end of the foyer are broad aisles level with the auditorium at which will be stationed ushers. They will then be enabled to tell the ticket-holder whether he can reach his seat from that point or will be compelled to mount the stairs. Tis saves the weariness climb necessitated in theaters and subsequent run down the pitch to seats. Through the middle of the dress-circle, and also in the balcony, there is a promenade passage so that ticket-holders going from one side to another will not have to sidle between the narrow way in front of seats, and prevents the scramble over unyielding legs. The spectator can see the whole house from the most remote seat in the balcony, and has a fine uninterrupted view of the stage.
The supporting pillars are so placed that they only interfere with seven seats in the whole house and then only partially, The extent of the auditorium is 80×124 feet, the height if the stage arch is forty feet. From the floor to the ceiling at the highest point is fifty-eight feet. The height of the building from sidewalk to cornice top is ninety-six feet, and from cornice to the tops of the clock-tower, thirty-six feet. In the roof is a large skylight of parti-colored glass, 25×40, containing about 1,000 square feet. This is one of the beautiful effects of the interior. From the main floor there are six exits, and from every other five, being three times the number required by the fire ordinances. On every floor also there is a private dressing-room.
The gas is lighted by means of electricity. The gas fixtures consist of four large sun-burners, having sixty-four jets, sixteen chandeliers, four to eight burners each, and twenty brackets of three burners each, all handsome and in keeping with the elaborate fresco decorations done under the direction of Charles Atwood. The court east of the building is to be paved. At this side is the carriage entrance, protected by a projecting balcony. This balcony, in turn, can be reached from the dress circle.
The main entrance to the building from State street. It is a handsome vestibule, twenty feet wide and forty long, with tessellated floor, and is dressed with panels of onyx and marble. At the end of this is the box office, set in so as to avoid all obstructions of the passage. The entrance to the parquet will be up a stand of marble steps, the straight, level entrance being used as an exit. This means is adopted to prevent a jam in entering.
But the appearance of the house by daylight was incomparably heightened in effect during the evening when a private reception was held. Then the beauties so impressive before were given the benefit of the blaze of gaslight, and the addition of finish. The pagoda boxes were then decorated, and suggested some rich Oriental pavilion on a small scale. Three of these ranged together at each end of the balcony produced a gorgeous subject to the eye. These boxes are pagoda-shaped, though a little inclining to a trough. The top is argent gilding, surmounted by a crown of pink. Looking into the boxes, a red interior is seen, and the drapings, made to draw closely, are varied curtains of blue, pink, and yellow silk. The top border is of scalloped and fringed yellow silk, faced with black silk worked fern leaves. Inside were placed, upon a rich carpeting, cozy chairs, occupied during the evening by ladies in fashionable evening costume. The foyer had in the meantime been carpeted with heavy maroon-colored Brussels, with handsome square checks. Placed in artistic negligence about this place were chairs and ottomans of different styles, and the four mirrors, with their velvet casings, reflected the moving crowd and the brilliant light in mimicry of an extensive salon. The stairways leading up to the dress-circle are covered with handsome, broad, velvet carpeting.
The place lights up splendidly, and those who are competent to judge by comparison declare it is doubtful if there is so perfect, handsome, and tasteful a music hall in the world. It was viewed throughout its entire extent last evening, and the expressions of delight were as numerous as the party.
After an hour had passed in this agreeable and charming diversion, the inspection of the house, Mr. L. Z. Leiter stepped forward upon the platform and introduced Professor Swing. The latter gentleman made a most enjoyable and humorous speech of five minutes’ duration. And, though he spoke hardly above a conversational tone, his words were heard by the remotest auditor, so fine are the acoustics of this hall. The speaker began by narrating an anecdote of a hale fellow at a dinner party who had absorbed too much of the liquid good things. When called upon for a toast, he rose somewhat confusedly, saying:
Gentlemen, I’m not drunk, sure you, but somebody tell me the theme be obliged.
The speaker thought the hall spoke for itself. Its admirable exits spoke, its beauty spoke, its uses spoke, and there was little the speaker could say. He said the world was was full of ideals; under the hands of the sculptor, under the hands of ther painter and the artist, the ideal woman was being worked out, but she came no other way. There were ideal halls, and though tis was a splendid hall, the best in the country if not in the world, it would nit be the ideal hall unless it created a sympathy between the platform and the audience. Somehow or another halls would permit the choir to sleep while the pulpit talked, and thus lost ideality. The ideal hall must be so adjusted that a spoonful of ice-cream or a sip of lemonade would be applied at proper occasion to the drousy of discontented. But, seriously, he thought the public should be proud that the city was graced by such a hall; so admirably located and so superior in all its points. The platform, the pulpiy, and the lyric food would alike be honored in it.
Dr. Jackson, one of the famous Innocents Abroad, was next introduced, and thought it exceedingly wicked of Professor Swing to say the very things he had been running over in his mind as just what he should say. He had been asked to step out there and praise the house and
He did both most heartily in sentiment, bt since he had been left nothing to say he must content himself with having sounded the acoustics. During the evening Mrs. Runnion played some selections on the piano, Miss Mantey gave a violin solo,, and a duet was sung, all of which proved the sounding qualities of the house to be par excellence. No word of praise can be written that will fail to be justified by the new Central Music Hall, and those who attend the entertainment this evening will find this to be true.
Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1880
Central Music Hall
Pirated version advertisement of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “H.M.S. Pinafore,” which premiered in London on May 25, 1878.
Chicago Tribune, November 12, 1890
The wedding of Miss Rosalee Buckingham, daughter of Mrs. Benjamin Buckingham, and Mr. Harry Gordon Selfridge of the firm of Marshall Field & Co. took place at Central Church at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. The large music-hall was crowded with guests for fully an hour before the time appointed for the ceremony. A beautiful effect had been obtained by the use of masses of palms, ferns, and tropical plants. The stage was decorated to represent a cathedral choir, the pillars being formed of solid masses of white chrysanthemums. Then organ was hevily draped with ropes of smilax, caught by occasional bunches of chrysanthemums and white roses. The stage itself was entirely covered with potted chrysanthemums of different colors, palms and ferns. The front of the stage was banked with ferns, and in the center was arranged a temporary altar. Mr. Harrison Wild presided at the organ, being accompanied by Harpist Mme. Chatterton.
At 4 o’clock a chorus of twenty voices from the Apollo Club led by Mr. Tomlins sang the wedding march from “Lohengrin,” this being the signal for the entrance of the bridal party. First came a little page, Master Alphonse B. Chandler, nephew of the bride, and after him walked six ushers, Mr. Bruaert, and Mr. T. Benton Leiter, Mr. Harry Higinbotham and Mr. Eli Gage, Mr. E. S. Sturgis and Mr. Clarence Buckingham. After them walked a little flower girl, Miss Alice Higinbotham, followed by six bridesmaids, Miss Kate Buckingham and Miss May Sturgis, Miss Marie Winston, and Miss Eva Kimball, Miss Belle Quan and Miss Fannie Mass.
The bride entered next alone, followed by six more bridesmaids, Miss Carrie Griggs and Miss Fannie Cowles, Miss Frances Lee and Miss Jennie Grannis, Miss Julia Buckingham and Miss Ellen Williams. Six more ushers, Mr. James E. Evans and Harry Buckingham, Mr. G. M.Alexander and Mr. Henry J. Quan. Mr. William Preston brought the bridal procession to a close. Mr. Selfridge and his best man, Mr. R. B. Macpherson of New York, entered from the side and met the bride in the open space before the stage. Prof. Swing, pastor of Central Church, assisted by Prof. Sanford of Syracuse, performed the ceremony, during which the chorus of voices sang a marriage hymn. The Mendelssohn march was played as a recessional. The bride wore a princess gown of heavy white satin, the back made with a long plain train, and the front heavily embroidered with orange blossoms and finished at the bottom with a deep flounce of point lace. The bodice was high in the neck with long sleeves embroidered and trimmed with lace. The veil was of tulle edged with lace and embroidered all about with a narrow vine of orange blossoms. She wore no ornaments and carried a bouquet of white roses. The bridesmaids were dressed alike in gowns of white mousseline de soie made over satin. The bodices were of mull, trimmed about the open neck with Russian yokes of velvet; two in seafoam green embroidered in gold, two in pair pink and coral beads, two in pale yellow and turquoise beads, two in violet and pearls, two in blue and silver, and two in cherry and crystals. They all wore veils and gold girdles and carried heart-shaped bouquets of roses.
The Inter Ocean, November 16, 1890
The ceremony was followed by a grand dinner, to which the entire bridal party sat down at 5 p’clock. This and the reception, which was held from 7:30 to 11 o’clock, occurred at the home of the bride’s brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs, Mr. and Mrs. Frank R. Chandler, No. 182 Rush street. There, too, extensive preparations had been in progress for days, including the building of a “bridal arbor room” in the vacant lot north of the house, and a temporary stairway in the same in the rear of it, up which the guests passed through a doorway in the second story of the elegant residence. In the “bridal arbor room” the bridal party were grouped for the reception, and the dinner took place in the Oriental room on the top floor. Mr. and Mrs. Selfridge have gone to Mexico for the wedding trip, from which they will return about Dec. 1. They will reside in future at the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Chandler, No. 182 Rush street.
Chicago Tribune, July 19, 1891
The block has an entire frontage on the four streets of 1,380 feet, of which Mr. Field controls 765 feet, or a little more than one-half. The building occupied by Marshall Field & Co. has 150 feet on State and 150 on Washington street. North of this stands a forty-foot lot belonging to the estate of Hugh Speer, on which Mr. Field has leases seven or eight years. The adjoining forty feet Mr. Field bought of William E. Hall. Next comes a thirty-foot piece belonging to the Osborn estate. North of this stands Central Music Hall, which occupies 130 feet to the corner of Randolph street, Mr. Field is said to own a controlling interest in tho Central Music Hall property.
Central Music Hall (On the Right)
September, 11, 1900
Inter Ocean, June 24, 1900
Passing of Central Music. Hall.
Central Music hall is to be demolished, and on its site Marshall Field is to erect “a modern twelve-story commercial building.” Central Music hall was new and modern less than twenty-one years ago. When dedicated with pomp, circumstance, and rejoicing it was regarded as one of the most striking, as well as one of the most useful, architectural ornaments of our city, but some things grow old very rapidly in Chicago, and the improvements of yesterday must make way for the later improvements of today. In any other city in the world the thought of tearing down a structure like Central Music hall to make room for another would hardly be entertained. In Chicago the hand of progress is relentless. The new must make way for the newer.
It required years of unremitting labor on the part of the conservators of the musieal and literary taste of this city to secure the co-operation of the capitalists which resulted in the erection of Central Music hall. The labor and anxiety attendant upon the promotion of the enterprise killed one of the most promising and brilliant young men Chicago ever produced— George B. Carpenter. At his death the late Professor Swing pronounced a eulogy upon him, in the course of which he said that Central Music hall would remain a lasting monument to his unselfishness and his genius. Those who heard the great preacher say this believed him. As things go in this world it was said only yesterday. Today the monument is doomed.
Central Music hall was erected in 1879 by a stock company, the shareholders in which included many of the wealthy, enterprising, and philanthropic citizens of Chicago. They had been brought together by the magnetic personality of George B. Cerpenter, who loved music, literature, and art as few men love them, and whose ambition in life was to consecrate a terple to their worship. The object of the stock company was “to promote religious, educational, and musical purposes, the culture of the arts, and to provide for public amusements and entertainments.” Although not set down in the prospectus, one of the objects was to provide a place where Professor David Swing might talk every Sunday to the men and women who made up the congregation of Central church. The architect selected to embody the ideas of George B. Carpenter was of a firm that has left its impress upon the heart of this city. The structure was pronounced admirably adapted to the purposes in view. It was one of tho sights pointed out to strangers. It was recognized throughout the West as the center of the musical culture of the metropolis. It has maintained. its high standing for nearly twenty-one years. It has not deteriorated in any respect. It is still one of the finest buildings in the country. But it is in the way of the commercial expansion of the district in which it stands. Anywhere else it might remain an ornament to Chicago for fifty years to come. At the southeast corner of State and Randolph streets it is an obstacle, in the pathway of trade. It must go.
Chicago Tribune, June 24, 1900
WIll Raze Central Musie Hall.
The permit will be good for two years if granted. Central Music Hall and the two five-story connecting buildings at 77 to 85 State street, on the site of the proposed new building, will be razed. Leases of tenants in Central Music Hall do not expire until May 1, 1901, and they are not to be disturbed.
Mr. Field is in London, but Henry Dibblee, agent of Central Music Hall, said:
- Before any new building can be erected the Central Music Hall company will have to have its corporation dissolved, as the present charter requires that a music hall be maintained. This will not be difficult, as Mr. Field owns all the stock. The present tenants are not to be disturbed until their leases expire next spring, when it is hoped to commence building. D. H. Burnham & Co. are now at work on plans, which will be submitted to Mr. Field on his return home. There is no intention at the present moment on Mr. Field’s part to provide another music hall in the down-town district. Central Music Hall of late has not been a financial success, and I doubt if any other similar hall would pay a return on the investment.
Chicago Tribune, March 10, 1901
Plans have been completed for the twelve-story store building to be erected by Marshall Field, in State street, covering the entire block, 384½ feet from Randolph to Washington street. The cost is to between two $1,500,000 and $2,000,000. D. H. Burnham & Co. are the architects.
To allow of this improvement Central Music Hall and the two five-story buildings on the south end of it, used at present by Marshall Field & Co., will be razed after May 1. This ground space is the first section of the big building. It has a frontage of 224 feet in State street and 150½ feet in Randolph. The second section, the present eight-story store at the north-east corner of State and Washington streets, will not be fully constructed for the present. As now proposed, the foundation will be paid and the first two stories remodeled, a new front being put in corresponding to the new structure to the north. Then, whenever the needs of the firm for more space require it, this second section will be completed, finishing the structure from Randolph street to Washington.
The State street and Randolph street fronts for their entire twelve stories are to be of white granite. The Holden place front is to be of white enameled brick and terra cotta. One of the chief distinguishing features of the State street front will be the entrance in the center of the block. This is sixty-five feet in length and rises to the third floor.
In the show windows on the two street fronts the polished plate glass will be the largest sizes ever set in a window frame for store or other building. The eleventh and twelfth stories are made a feature of the design, there being twenty stories are made a feature of the design, there being twenty engaged Ionic columns thirty feet in height supporting the cornice.
The cold storage fur-rooms will contain 15,000 cubic feet of space. There is a plant provided for cooling purposes, ice water, and manufacturing ice shapes for tearoom uses and decorations.
The entire mass when completed and occupied, will weigh 56,000 tons. All this is carried by 130 concrete caissons penetrating the earth to a depth of ninety feet below street grade.
The superstructure will be held firmly intact by 130 steel columns supported by the caissons. These columns alone weigh 4,500,000 pounds, and they support or carry all walls and floors. There are 10,000,000 pounds of floor beams, being 156,000 feet lineal of “I” beams or thirty miles of them. An order for 8,000 tons of the structure steel was placed early last January.
Chicago Tribune, April 15, 1901
Central Music Hall Entrance
Central Music Hall
Robinson Fire Map 1886
Volume 3, Plate 9
Central Music Hall
Central Music Hall