• Today in History: Benaroya Hall opens in 1998

    By: David Wilma, Historylink.org


    SEATTLE - On Saturday, pianist Jean-Yves Thubaudet and Music Director Ludovic Morlot will join the Seattle Symphony for Opening Night at Benaroya Hall in Seattle.

    With openeing night just days away, KIRO 7 looked into the history of Benaroy Hall and found that Wednesday marks 18 years since Benaroya Hall first opened as the new home of the Seattle Symphony. 

    The following is a recap of the event in a HistoryLink.org essay written by David Wilma

    On September 12, 1998, Benaroya Hall opens as the new home of the Seattle Symphony. Designed by LMN Architects (Seattle), with acoustics designed by Dr. Cyril Harris, it is named after the Benaroya family, whose $15 million gift made the project possible. Benaroya Hall is located in downtown Seattle on 3rd Avenue and Union Street.

    In the 1980s, the Seattle Symphony had planned a new home on property donated by the Kreielsheimer Foundation next to the Seattle Center. Planning and fundraising lagged and the cost of the facility climbed to the neighborhood of $50 million.

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    In 1993, Jack and Becky Benaroya gave an unsolicited $15 million to the project, which triggered enthusiasm for it among other donors. The state, city, and county promised support as well. The hall was built in two years, on time and on budget at $118 million. Designers had to craft the structure to deal with noise from both the 3rd Avenue transit tunnel and outside traffic.

    The hall featured the 2,500-seat Mark Taper main stage and a 540-seat Illsley Ball Nordstrom recital hall. The first performance took place on the afternoon following the opening. Gerard Schwartz conducted the Seattle Symphony in Mozart's last three symphonies.

    A privately funded Garden of Remembrance, chiefly underwritten by Patsy Bullitt Collins (1920-2003) and the Boeing Co., is located on the Hall's western plaza along 2nd Ave. Designed by Murase Associates and dedicated on July 4, 1998, the memorial lists the names of Washingtonians who died in military service during World War II and subsequent conflicts up to the present day.

    Click here to read the full essay from David Wilma on Historylink.org. 

    Melinda Bargreen, "Orchestrating The Money," The Seattle Times, March 15, 1998 (archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com); Melinda Bargreen, "Benaroya Hall Opening Draws Many Oohs And Ahs," Ibid., September 13, 1998.

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