Civic Opera Building

Lyric Opera of Chicago is such an institution that it seems its existence has always been a given. But just like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Field Museum surmounted multiple difficulties in their early years, establishing a permanent opera company was no easy task. And since this was opera, its drama was on an even grander scale, almost Wagnerian in scope. 

Chicago wanted opera. With the popularity of the Grand Opera Festival in 1885, Ferdinand Peck confirmed that desire. He hired Adler and Sullivan to build an amazing, acoustically perfect theater, even though the city had no company of its own and had to rely on traveling productions to get its fix. The Auditorium opened in 1899, providing Chicago with its very own opera house – yet it still had to wait for the Metropolitan Opera and, later, the Manhattan Opera Company to visit from New York. 

Read more about this landmark in Living Landmarks of Chicago.

Completed: 1929
Architects: Graham, Anderson, Probst & White
Address: 20 N. Upper Wacker Dr.

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Sources for Civic Opera Building

This is a selection of specific sources used to provide details while researching this landmark. Additional sources, including books and websites, can be found on the Resources page.

  • Bulliet, Clarence Joseph, 1883-1952. How Grand Opera Came to Chicago. 
  • “Chicago’s 45-Story Opera Building Opens.” The Indianapolis Star, 05 Nov 1929.
  • “Chicago’s New Opera Palace Opens Tonight.” Chicago Tribune, 4 Nov 1929.
  • Hackett, Karleton, b. 1867. The Beginning of Grand Opera In Chicago (1850-1859). Chicago: The Laurentian publishers, 1913.
  • Key, Pierre V. R. “New York is Outdone by Chicago Musically.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 24 Nov 1929.
  • “Lawrence Kelly Opera Impresario.” New York Times, 17 Sep 1974.
  • Moore, Edward Colman, 1877-. Forty Years of Opera In Chicago. New York: H. Livewright, 1930.