Historic Structures

Albany Municipal Auditorium, Albany Georgia

Date added: July 8, 2019 Categories: Georgia Theater Community Facility

The Municipal Auditorium in downtown Albany, Georgia, built c.1915 to replace an older wooden building that housed the Chataqua Society activities, was designed by A. Ten Eyck Brown, a well known Atlanta architect.

The need for a new auditorium in the early 1900's grew out of the many activities of the Chataqua Society of Albany, Georgia. This Society was founded by Dr. N. A. Duncan of Syracuse, New York, the secretary of the New York Society, who bought a plantation near Albany, Georgia, in 1888. The Society was designed to provide an informal method of education for people who had little formal education. After the movement officially ended during World War I, the auditorium continued to be used for Chataque type events. The large stage of the auditorium was considered one of the best in the South during the early twentieth century. Many celebrities appeared on this stage, Sara Bernhardt, Maud Adams, David Warrick, and Henry Ford among others. Such musical events as the Al G. Fields Minstrels, Sousa's Band, and many Broadway plays attracted audiences from all over South Georgia to the Albany Auditorium. The building was also used for home talent shows, concerts by local musicians high school graduations, and events of Albany State College and Albany Junior College.

The architect for this Municipal Auditorium, A. Ten Eyck Brown, designed many other buildings and homes in Atlanta and the Southeast, such as the Fulton county Courthouse and the Forsyth Theatre Building in Atlanta, the New Orleans Courthouse, the Western Kentucky Normal School in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and the southeastern branches of the Federal Reserve Bank. Mr. Brown was trained in New York and worked with the Supervising Architect's Office of the Federal Government in Washington before coming to Atlanta around the turn of the century. The squared off lines of the Albany Auditorium are typical of the style that Brown developed out of his training which was supposedly influenced by the early work of Frank Lloyd Wright, especially the Unity Church of 1906 in Oak Park, Illinois. Because the lines and proportion of Wright's Unity Church are much sharper and more compact than those of Brown's Auditorium, the Auditorium does not really seem to resemble the church on close comparison. The auditorium is much closer to the Werkbund Theatre by Henry van de Velde that was built in 1914 in Cologne, Germany because of the large blank spaces of wall that are broken by widely space groups of very small windows and the general appearance of the large rectangle surrounded by small geometric forms. The over-all appearance of the Albany Municipal Auditorium is one of severe simplicity for a building of this type during the early 1900's that almost approaches radically progressive design.

In 1972 the auditorium was abandoned and a proposal for its demolition and replacement was in the works by the mid 1970s. Fortunately plans for restoration instead prevailed, and restoration of the auditorium started in 1986. In 1990, the Albany Symphony Orchestra reopened the renovated auditorium, performing a Gala Concert with Albany native Ray Charles.

The Albany Municipal Auditorium is the home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra. The auditorium also hosts the Deerfield-Windsor School's annual all-student Spring Musical, Ballet Theatre South's (formerly Albany Ballet Theater) annual production and various concerts and stage plays.