Municipal Auditorium, 1958

Portland’s Municipal Auditorium was built in 1917 facing SW 3rd between Clay and Market. Known over the years as Portland Municipal Auditorium and Portland Public Auditorium, it was extensively remodeled in 1968 and renamed Portland Civic Auditorium. In 2000 it was renamed Keller Auditorium. This 1958 view is south on SW 3rd at Clay.

(University of Oregon Libraries)

11 thoughts on “Municipal Auditorium, 1958

  1. Material taken from the remodel can be found today, used as steps in the Japanese Garden in a nice bit of recycling.

  2. Did they reduce the grade of Third Ave. when all of the Urban Renewal work took place in that area? Maybe it’s just the angle of the photo, but Third looks like it has a much steeper grade in the old photo compared to now.

    I have to say that I like the look of the pre-remodel Auditorium. According to Wikipedia, I’m not alone in that sentiment: “In June 1970, Ada Louise Huxtable called the redesigned auditorium ‘a building of unrelieved blandness’.”

  3. I think it was the first or second Thursday of every month…we called it Symphony Night…my parents and I would dress up in our Sunday best and go downtown. It was hard to sit still for two-plus hours but it was exciting none-the-less. I saw Mary Costa, the opera singer, Van Clyburn, the pianist, and many other famous musicians, actors and actresses from various Broadway productions. I also remember seeing Victor Borge, the humorist, musician and pianist. He was always a favorite! During intermission, people would all crowd outside the back hallways and fill the place with cigar and cigarette smoke and when it was time to return, there was some kind of sound signal that went off…or maybe it was an usher? They were usually kinda rude, stiff and a bit uppity, and they blatantly didn’t like children…but the whole experience was still exciting. One thing…it wasn’t like going to the movies though…no popcorn or refreshments during the performances…oh well, I usually stashed a candy bar or some Oreo’s in my suit pocket!

    Good memories…almost forgotten ones…thanks for the great photo!

    Jim K

  4. I can remember when the Keller Fountain went in and it was THE hippie hangout of the time. You could always find someone with a guitar lounging around and girls in bright, funky looking clothing. Friend of mine used to have a photo of the fountain one winter when it was left on and a surprise freeze came along and it was covered in ice falls. Beautiful, if harsh on the plumbing. Had a lovely view of St. Mary’s too.
    At one time the place I worked got a lot of free tickets for stuff at the auditorium and I always tried to go. Saw Pagliacci (sp?_ there and the American Ballet Comedie, Gordon Lightfoot, “The Producers”, You used to be able to get a glass of champagne! during the interval.

  5. “Extensively remodeled” is an understatement. It was rebuilt. The exterior brick, the roof, and the entire interior, down to the bare dirt, were removed. Three concrete walls remained. Then current auditorium was built around them.

    Photos of the old interior show that the orchestra seats all faced directly forward. So did the balcony seats. The balcony wrapped around the sides of the rectangular auditorium, and the side seats directly faced the other side, not the stage. Most of the audience must have gotten a crick in their necks.

    It was a lousy auditorium. I love the Keller. I always have. It is elegant and classy but not pretentious. And it has no bad seats.

  6. The auditorium reminds me of a glorified, and somewhat larger, high school auditorium. I have never been a big fan of the Keller. It just seemed so sterile. It does have good acoustics though. I remember seeing the Sex Pistols there (yes, they played the Keller) and the fans in the first few rows tore up the seats and had a mini-riot in there!

  7. I was referring to the “old” auditorium when I compared it to a high school auditorium. Thanks Jim for the great link to the video of Ike.

  8. The auditorium was being remodelled when I graduated from high school (’67). So rather than follow the tradition of holding the graduation ceremonies there, our class graduated in the old Oriental Theater adjacent to the Weatherly Building on Union (MLK). We were having a heat wave, the airconditioning wasn’t on, and the bishop was so long-winded that we sweated for an hour listening to him. Great old theater, tho.

  9. Jim K…I have similar memories during the early 80’s. Intermission meant delicious chocolate torte cake for me…hahaha

    I remember seeing the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Andres Segovia and lots of musicals, plays and the Pops at this wonderful place. Oh! Jimmy Buffet too…

    I was astonished at a young age then also when someone’s beeper would off and they had to excuse themselves during the performance. Perhaps they were surgeons? They must have been really important to have a beeper!

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