At a news conference earlier this morning The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that it is naming the Chautauqua Amphitheater, a National Historic Landmark, as one of America’s National Treasures. Known as the Amp, the Chautauqua Amphitheater, which has hosted a wide range of leaders, activists and artists over its 122-year history, is threatened by the Chautauqua Institution’s plan to demolish the Amp to make way for a replica.
The Landmark Society has actively supported preserving the amphitheater. We are proud to join a regional and national coalition (consisting of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Preservation League of New York State, and Preservation Buffalo Niagara) in support of preserving the Chautauqua Amphitheater.
The National Trust’s naming the site a National Treasure emphasizes the Amphitheater’s significance. It sits at the core of an incredibly unique and significant historic district. The needs to update this historic resource can be met with less expensive approaches – and these approaches will produce far less damage to the structure than the proposed current plan.
While the coalition is pleased with the Institution’s recent announcement to postpone any decisions on the Amphitheater project until August, we encourage the Institution to recognize and embrace the value of the authentic building as a starting point for a renewed dialogue. The National Trust is encouraging the Institution to work closely and openly with local and statewide preservationists who have offered their assistance to come up with an alternative plan that respects the key historic features of the Amp while accommodating necessary and needed improvements. The National Trust is partnering with Preservation Buffalo Niagara, the Preservation League of New York State, the Committee to Preserve the Historic Chautauqua Amphitheater, and many others, in this effort.
Chautauqua transformed American life as the first multi-use retreat in the U.S. that is an arts colony, music festival, village square and summer encampment all at once, spawning dozens of “daughter” Chautauquas throughout the U.S. Chautuaqua programs have explored important religious, social and political issues of the day; engaged individuals and families in response to these issues; and fostered excellence in the appreciation, performance and teaching of the arts. Historical figures who have spoken at, performed at or visited Chautauqua include Franklin Delano Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, Susan B. Anthony, Thurgood Marshall, Bobby Kennedy, Lionel Hampton, Marian Anderson, Van Cliburn, Booker T. Washington, both Bill and Hillary Clinton and Sandra Day O’Connor.
American Express is Presenting Partner of the National Treasures program, and has pledged $6.5 million to help promote and enable the preservation of these cultural and historic places.