Photo courtesy Richard Margolis
875 East Main Street
City of Rochester, Monroe County
An officially designated City of Rochester landmark, the Auditorium Center, built in 1928-29, is architecturally and historically significant as one of the region’s finest examples of Art Deco design. Originally built as the Masonic Temple, it was the headquarters for over six decades of the fraternal order of Free and Accepted Masons, a worldwide organization whose local members used this remarkable facility for their meetings and theatrical productions, as well as numerous public events. In addition to the 2,464-seat Auditorium Theater, the building includes several large and elaborately-designed meeting halls and lounges, smaller meeting rooms, offices, and extensive storage facilities. Designed by E. Eugene Osgood of Osgood and Osgood, Grand Rapids, Michigan, working with Rochester architect Carl C. Ade, the building is a rich repository of Art Deco interior and exterior decoration, as well as interior themes of Classical and Medieval origins. Doors, lamps, elevator doors, ceiling tiles, and other features have the stylized, streamlined design typical of the style.
By the 1980s, membership in the local Masonic lodges had greatly decreased and the building’s extensive facilities were larger than they required. They subsequently sold the property to a local developer. Traveling theatrical productions and a variety of performing groups continued to use the large Auditorium Theater, while new tenants and uses were sought for the extensive facilities in the western half of the building. By 2003, the Rochester Broadway Theatre League purchased the Auditorium Theater portion of the building and commenced extensive renovations of that facility. The remaining meeting halls, offices and facilities in the western half of the building continued to be occupied by a combination of profit and not-for-profit businesses and groups. Over the past decade, on-going discussions have been underway concerning the future of this building and its continued use for Broadway touring and other theatrical performances, as these productions require larger stage and audience facilities than are currently available in this building.
A highly visible anchor in Rochester’s Cultural District, the Auditorium Theater is one of the most important historic theater complexes in the Finger Lakes region. Its exceptional historic and architectural significance make it an important candidate for revitalization and continued use as a community performing arts center. The Landmark Society hopes to work proactively with the Rochester Broadway Theatre League and City officials to plan for the long term use and care of this important Main Street gem.