Corinthian Hall was Rochester’s most prestigious site for concerts, lectures and balls. The Hall hosted a Who’s Who list of historical speakers and held grand concerts and performances by some of the biggest names from home and abroad. The hall was located at Exchange Place and Mill Street behind the Reynolds Arcade, where a parking garage currently stands, at the end of what is now called Corinthian St.
- (1849 – 1879) – Original structure.
- (1879 – 1898) – Remodeled and renamed the Academy of Music
- (1898 – 1928) – Rebuilt after a fire & renamed The Corinthian Theater
Corinthian Hall was built by the Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics’ Association, now known as The Rochester Institute of Technology. It was a merger of the Athenaeum, an organization formed by Nathaniel Rochester to sponsor lectures from America’s best known orators, and the Mechanic’s Literary Association, founded by William A Reynolds, as a club for young men to discuss worldly topics and literature. Hard economic times and other pressures led to the merger of the two clubs. Together they realized the need for a hall. Reynolds owned the land behind the Reynolds Arcade and saw the building of a hall there as a business opportunity. Dues from members could provide funds to sponsor lecturers and others would pay to hear them speak.
Corinthian Hall was designed by architect Henry Searle. Originally the hall was to be called the Athenaeum, but the day before the dedication, Reynolds looked at the large Corinthian columns Searle placed behind the stage and thought of the more fitting name. Exchange Place was also renamed Corinthian St. Though it was a simple design, the hall was praised far and wide as the most perfectly constructed for acoustics of any hall in the country. Architects came from other cities to study its proportions, ease of access, heating and ventilation systems and its gas lighting. It was truly a source of pride for the emerging city.
The building was remodeled in 1879 and thereafter often called, the Academy of Music. After being ravaged by fire in 1898 the Hall was rebuilt and reopened in 1904 as the Corinthian Theater. It never regained the splendor of its earlier time, and the building was razed in 1928.
During Corinthian Hall’s heyday there were continuous bookings of all the great orators of the day including Susan B. Anthony, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Dickens, William H. Seward, William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. In July of 1851, a parade of grand vocal and instrumental concerts took place. On July 22 and 24, the famed Swedish soprano, Mademoiselle Jenny Lind, known around the world as “The Swedish Nightingale,” brought her tour group sponsored by P.T. Barnum to Rochester for the most unforgettable performances Rochester had ever seen.