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Lakeside Heritage Trail
19. Central/Hoover Auditorium
115 W. Third Street
Central Auditorium 1928
Hoover Auditorium Today
The First Central Auditorium in 1928
A central place for worship and programs was necessary from the very beginning of Lakeside. In 1873, the block where Hoover Auditorium now stands was chosen as the central meeting location. A covered preachers stand and plank bleachers were erected on the north end of the block. A canvas tent was erected over the benches shortly thereafter.
In 1876, a new rectangular 50’ X 70’ tabernacle was erected, replacing the original structure. Known as Central Auditorium, the stage end was enclosed and the sides were open. By 1900, the auditorium was enlarged twice and had a octagonal shape. The sides were covered with large wooden lifts that were raised when the building was in use and closed during the off season. The auditorium was also surrounded by a canvas fence.
A New Modern Auditorium
By the mid 1920’s, it was clear that Lakeside needed a modern auditorium to replace the original Central Auditorium. Lakeside’s General Manager, Arthur L. Hoover, with Board of Trustees President Peter J. Slach and architect Granville E. Scott developed a plan for a new auditorium. The core of the plan included laminated wood arches, patterned after many skating rinks and dance halls being erected at that time. The arches would be the largest and greatest span ever attempted in those days, with the new structure covering the entire block on which stood the old Central Auditorium. The wood used to form the arches was Oregon fir and brought to Lakeside on open flat cars by the New York Central, and Lakeside and Marblehead Railroads.
The Hoover family and Mr. Slach contributed substantially to the new auditorium financing. Much of the Hoover money for the project came from income from the Hoover Potato digger, an important farm implement invented by Mr. Hoover’s father. The corner stone of the new auditorium was laid in October 1928 and construction continued through the winter. The building was completed in time for the 1929 season and dedicated on June 29-30, 1929.
A contemporary masterpiece, the auditorium had 3,000 seats, a beautiful 70’ wide proscenium arch framing the 40’ X 110’ stage area, the finest of dressing rooms, rest rooms, curtains, amplification equipment, platform risers and motion picture screen. The main entrance, ticket offices and restrooms were located at the building’s north end. Above these rooms was a state-of-the-art fireproof projection room, making it possible to show the newest rage – sound motion pictures.
But within a year, it was apparent that the new Central Auditorium had major structural problems. Unfortunately, the lumber had been left uncovered throughout the construction and became saturated with water. This made the arches too flexible, and the weight of winter snow resulted in a 3’ sag at the center of the ceiling and the side walls forced out of place by 18”. It was decided to erect steel arches to support the sagging wood arches. 40 large utility poles, cribbing and screw jacks were put in place, the roof was slowly raised and the walls put back into their original positions. The new steel arches’ sections were then placed and bolted into position. When the poles were removed the weight of the roof now rested on the steel arches. Crisis averted!
In 1947, General Manager Hoover passed away, and in 1949, Central Auditorium was rededicated in his name.
Several interior improvements in sound and projection systems, carpeting, ventilation and seating have taken place over the course of the past 10 years. Ventilation was greatly improved when large ceiling fans were installed. Many of the original seats have been upholstered and refinished. Each was reinstalled at wider spacing for additional comfort and to comply with national disability requirements. As of 2023, Hoover had 2,519 seat spaces and 27 ADA-compliant wheelchair spaces. Dozens of exhibitions and concerts take place in Hoover Auditorium each summer, and Lakesiders will enjoy the beautiful historic building for years to come.