History of Innovation

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1886: Chicago Auditorium – Chicago, Illinois

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Innovation: Chicago Auditorium Building
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Year: 1886
By: Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan

Designed in 1886 and completed in 1889, the Chicago Auditorium Building by Adler and Sullivan incorporated significant fire safety, following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. From October 8 to October 10, 1871, 3.3 square miles in Chicago burned to the ground, which left over 100,000 people without homes and hundreds dead. This spurred an interest in fire safety and innovation, which was incorporated into the Chicago Auditorium Building.  Plaster material instead of wood was used for the walls and ceilings of the theater and stone walls were used for the exterior of the building. There were a large number of narrow aisles (rather than fewer, wider aisles) and tunnel-like passages that led out of the theater and allowed for a quick evacuation. The building also featured several other innovative concepts that were unheard of at the time. It was one of the first theaters to be both heated and air conditioned, which allowed it to function year-round. It was also one of the first buildings at the time to be wired with electricity, and housed 11 massive generators to power the building. Beneath the stage, 26 hydraulic lifts were incorporated to raise and lower the stage for different performances.


Written by Michael Van Shellenbeck

January 5, 1886 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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