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Sunday, June 22, 2003
The evolution of McCaw Hall

James Osborne
James Osborne
1881: Saloon owner James Osborne donates part of his estate to the City of Seattle for a "civic auditorium."

1889: The site is set when David and Louisa Denny donate land to the city for "public use forever."

1927: Seattle citizens pass a $900,000 bond issue — a whopping sum in those days — so the hall can finally be built.

Civic center
Civic Auditorium
1928: The new Civic Auditorium is dedicated. Performances follow by such luminaries as Marian Anderson, Arthur Rubinstein, Danny Kaye and the San Francisco Opera.

1956: Another bond issue passes ($2.75 million) to upgrade the Civic Auditorium for the 1962 World's Fair. Improvements are limited, however, to the exterior and public areas.

1962: Pianist Van Cliburn and composer/conductor Igor Stravinsky are the stars of the reopening of the 3,100-seat Seattle Opera House, which becomes the home of the Seattle Symphony.

1964: The fledgling Seattle Opera opens its first season with "Tosca."

1973: Pacific Northwest Ballet, originally an offshoot of the opera, opens its own independent Opera House season.

1980: Bumbershoot Festival begins on Seattle Center grounds — including the Opera House.

1990: Seattle International Children's Festival begins.

1998: Seattle Symphony gets a downtown home of its own, Benaroya Hall. The symphony's move frees up many dates at the Opera House and makes life easier for the two remaining resident groups, the opera and ballet, but aging backstage/technical areas and inadequate seismic safety/disability accommodation make a remodel imperative.

1999: Passage of a $29 million bond issue is a big step in making possible the transformation of the 71-year-old hall.

2000: A $20 million gift from the four McCaw brothers — Bruce, Craig, John and Keith — launches the project and names the hall in honor of their mother, Marion Oliver McCaw Garrison, a founding member of the Seattle Opera board of trustees.

2001: Following the ballet's "Nutcracker," the Seattle Opera House closes down for the transformation.

2002: Ground is broken.

June 28, 2003: The hall reopens as Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.


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