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Chautauqua Auditorium

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1902. W. Main St. at Commodore Rd., Getzendaner Park

The Chautauqua movement was first organized in 1874 on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in New York as an educational summer retreat that brought entertainment and culture to rural America. Independent Chautauqua assemblies developed across the nation into the 1920s. In Waxahachie, the movement emerged when the Sappho Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle for Young Ladies was organized by the Presbyterian Church in 1889. The summer program proved immensely popular, with people from Texas and Oklahoma traveling here and joining the vast tent city on this bucolic site for ten days of lectures and entertainment. This 2,500-seat octagonal auditorium building, with a stage wing, featured pocket windows that slid into the upper wall so thousands more could see or hear the programs onstage. Buggies often pulled up around the auditorium so passengers could view the performances inside. Will Rogers and William Jennings Bryan were among the national luminaries who appeared on the stage. Chautauqua programs continued on this site until the early 1930s, when the movement was eclipsed by radio and motion pictures.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.


What's Nearby


Gerald Moorhead et al., "Chautauqua Auditorium", [Waxahachie, Texas], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Texas

Buildings of Texas: East, North Central, Panhandle and South Plains, and West, Gerald Moorhead and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2019, 89-89.

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