The City of Shelbyville commissioned CJP Architects to write a Historic Structure Report (HSR) in order to have a document that informed them about the Shelbyville Chautauqua Auditorium’s history, existing condition, and potential restoration/reconstruction treatments. The Shelbyville Chautauqua Auditorium is a fascinating structure built in 1903 as a permanent venue for annual Chautauqua gatherings in this south-central Illinois community.
Its design was based on a similar auditorium built in Dixon, Illinois for the Rock River Assembly in 1899. The architect Morrison H. Vail, originally from Chicago who relocated to Dixon, subsequent to the construction of the Rock River Assembly auditorium patented the design. It is not clear how the organizers of the Shelbyville Chautauqua obtained the plans, but it is known they visited the Dixon structure in about 1902. The Dixon structure was 160’-0” in diameter with 24 sides and the Shelbyville structure was built with a 150’-0” diameter with 20 sides. A local bridge builder, HB Trout, constructed the Shelbyville Chautauqua Auditorium and is presumably the one who interpolated the patent drawings in order to construct a version that virtually replicated the patent.
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, this amazing structure remains a community asset. It includes a sculpture at the top of the stage proscenium by well known artist Robert Marshall Root representing art, music, and drama.