Music Hall History


The Present

Music Hall stands majestically at the corner of 14th and Elm Streets in Cincinnati's historic Over The Rhine - just a short walk from the city's center.  Dedicated at the time of the fourth May Festival in 1878, Music Hall has endured famously over the years as a testament to those who conceived it and to those who continue to contribute to its grandeur.  The Cincinnati showpiece was built with private money raised from what is believed to be the nation's first matching grant fund drive and has been renovated and updated on numerous occasions.  Music Hall's Springer Auditorium is world renowned for its extraordinary acoustics and is judged to be among the best and most beautiful concert theaters in the world.  In January 1975, Music Hall was recognized as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. With a major revitalization completed last year, Music Hall is again alive with activity.

The Past

Music Hall was originally structured as three separate buildings.  Looking at the facade today one can still distinguish the separation between the buildings.  The two "alleyways" which separated the original three buildings were used for carriages as visitors and patrons were dropped off to attend the myriad of activities hosted within Music Hall.  It was the central location for large exhibitions and events for 89 years, prior to the opening of the downtown convention center in 1967.  The property on which Music Hall currently resides was a Potter's Field from 1818-1837, where the criminal, the destitute and the nameless were buried.  From 1820-1837 the Cincinnati Commerical Hospital, which was across the canal (where Central Parkway is today) from the site, used this location to house those patients with contagious diseases and it was known as the "Pest House".  In 1837 the building was used as the Orphan Asylum until it was moved in 1861.  While nothing remains of the original structures, the stage in the main auditorium is built upon the foundations of the Orphan Asylum.  After the Pest House and Orphan Asylum were closed, a large tin structure was built by the Saengerbund singing society on the city municipal land.  It was the largest public building in the city at the time.  To open their third May Festival, they had arranged for the renowned conductor, Theodore Thomas to conduct.  The story goes that just as he began the second concert, a tremendous thunderstorm crashed overhead and the orchestra could not be heard over the din of the rain hitting the tin roof.  Reuben Springer was in the audience and conceived the plan to create a new structure that could be used as both music hall and exposition center.  The new building was completed in time for the May 14, 1878 May Festival and the exposition center was finished in 1879 in time for the Industrial Exposition.  The combined capacity was 8,000 people.  The main hall's auditorium could seat 4,284 people in the audience.

The Stories

Beginning with its initial construction and continuing through the years, as Music Hall have undergone renovations, there have been discoveries of bones beneath the foundations  - believed to be the remains fo the Potter's Field.  In fact, skeletons were found during the construction of the freight elevator and then re-interred in a vault at the bottom of the shaft.  The vault remained there until 1988 when it was re-discovered and boxes containing the bones were given a proper burial at Spring Grove Cemetary.    Employees, guests and performers alike have reported many strange experiences at Music Hall.  From phantom singing and music being heard in different parts of the building, the freight elevator moving without being called, period figures in the auditorium seats, beautiful ladies strolling the halls, voices in the tower to restroom water facets being turned on when no one was in the building. Does Music Hall hold residual energy from the past?  Is Music Hall haunted?  Come and find out for yourself!