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Lawsuit filed to block demolition of Chautauqua Amphitheater

An organization and five owners of residences at Chautauqua Institution filed a lawsuit in State Supreme Court on Friday, seeking to block the demolition of the historic Chautauqua Amphitheater.

Arguments to grant a temporary restraining order will be heard by Justice Frank A. Sedita III at 2 p.m. Monday in the Chautauqua County Courthouse in Mayville.

The lawsuit brought by the Committee to Preserve the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheater names the institution’s board of trustees, the code enforcement officer for the Town of Chautauqua, and the Chautauqua Town Board as respondents. The action was prompted by the institution’s announcement on Jan. 13 that it had obtained demolition and building permits to start the initial phase toward building a replica of the Amphitheater.

The decision to tear down the 123-year-old Amphitheater, which has seen numerous historic figures speak through the years, has sparked sharp division at the institution, and the opposition of national and regional preservation groups.

The institution’s leaders have said new, modern facility is intended to provide more better comfort, safety and presentation for patrons and performers.