Saving amphitheater’s history will benefit patrons for years
As the former executive director of the Colorado Chautauqua Association (1994-1998) and mayor of Boulder, Colo. (1990-1997), I have just emailed Thomas Becker, chairman of the board.
I urged the Chautauqua Institution (CI) board to delay its upcoming decision to demolish the amphitheater and use the next year to genuinely examine options and alternatives to destroying this historic building, which has played such an important role in the education and cultural life of America.
The Colorado Chautauqua, located in Boulder, faced an even more dire decision as nearly all of our most significant buildings had been so badly neglected that demolition appeared to be the only alternative. Thankfully, our Chautauqua, together with the residents, Boulder community and historic preservation experts, worked together to save every one of our historic buildings, all of which are in use today.
Our auditorium was built in 1898 in less than three months. Like your amphitheater, our building has housed great and not-so-great performers and programs, ranging from a horse that apparently could count to national policy leaders. This barn-like structure was destined to the trash pile. Today it is in use every day from May through September, housing speakers, concerts, silent films, dance performances and theater. We made some changes with improved ventilation, acoustics and accessibility and modernized equipment.
Significantly, audiences today enjoy the same historic building and its vernacular architecture while appreciating and celebrating the Chautauqua experience as thousands of others have done since the auditorium was built 117 years ago.
It can be done. It takes creativity, courage and commitment. Chautauquans have what it takes, and deserve nothing less.