The Chautauqua Institution has received quite a bit of press these days because they are contemplating the demolition of a structure at the very heart of their community, the Amphitheater. Built in 1893, the Chautauqua Amphitheater has served as meeting place, concert venue and educational center for the community. Much attention has been given to the social history of the structure but very little attention has been given to the architectural heritage of Chautauqua and its early prolific architect, Ellis G. Hall. Given his relation to J. L. Silsbee, I thought it would be worthwhile to do a little digging about Hall and his work in this unique community.
|Ellis Hall's design for the Chautauqua Amphitheater. From Hand Book of the Chautauqua Assembly (1893).|
|Thomas Emory's summer home, "Boyden", on Cazenovia Lake. Silsbee & Hall architects (1884), demolished.|
Hall's employment and eventual partnership with Silsbee played a strong roll in the development of Hall's architectural interests. The work he did for Silsbee was varied as Silsbee's office was overseeing works of every type and size. Ultimately, the specialty was in the design of single family homes in the Queen Anne and Shingle Styles. An excellent example of this type of work is the home that the firm executed for a Syracuse doctor, Thomas Emory, in 1884.
After the firm dissolved its partnership in Syracuse and Silsbee moved to Chicago, in 1885, Hall seemed to seamlessly carry on the practice. During those early years, he worked on churches, hotels, commercial buildings and, of course, homes. One of his most prominent extant works in the city is the central tower to Horatio Nelson White's Hall of Languages, a centerpiece to the Syracuse University campus.
|Hall of Languages at Syracuse University. Structure by architect Horatio Nelson White (1873) and central tower by architect Ellis G. Hall (1887), standing.|
Ellis Hall's association with Chautauqua began when he helped form the Good Will Congregational Church in Syracuse. He and his wife, Susan, lived in a home of his design that was very close by. He worked with church superintendent, Dr. William A. Duncan, to create Sunday School and Church plans for a beautiful brick structure located on Syracuse's West Side. Duncan was an avid proponent of Sunday School programs and education in churches in general and helped form several such programs in New York. In 1883, Duncan became the superintendent for the Chautauqua Institute, a previously established center for adult education on Chautauqua Lake in Western New York.
|Good Will Congregational Church, Syracuse, Ellis G. Hall, architect (1885), demolished. Image from thetintypeshop.com|
The first known substantial structure that Hall designed for Chautauqua was the "University Building", also known as the "Moorish Barn". This whimsical structure was a large school to permanently house Chautauqua classes. The Moorish Revival style seems unique but it would have been a style that Hall was well accustomed to producing after years of practice with Silsbee.
|Chautauqua University Building ("Moorish Barn"), Ellis G. Hall, architect (1887), demolished. Image from the Chautauqua Institution Archives.|
|Chautauqua Arcade Building, Ellis G. Hall, architect (1890), standing. From Hand Book of the Chautauqua Assembly (1893).|
Hall's Alumni Building, with its wide veranda at the ground floor and open porch in the central tower also illustrate the importance of openness and air in the designs. Like structures that preceded it, these features took advantage of the lakeside setting of the community. More importantly, they helped the community to develop a particular visual character.
|Chautauqua Literary and Science Circle (CLSC) Alumni Building, Ellis G. Hall architect (1892) standing. From The Story of Chautauqua (1921).|
|Chautauqua Power House, Ellis G. Hall, architect (1894) demolished. Image from the Chautauqua Institution Archives.|
|Chautauqua Methodist Episcopal Headquarters. Ellis G. Hall, architect (1888) standing. from The Story of Chautauqua (1921).|
|Chautauqua Presbyterian Headquarters, Ellis G. Hall, architect (1893) standing. from The Story of Chautauqua (1921).|
As is the case with most architects of this period, there are no office records and little information about their lives and work. Throughout Hall's career, he moved from Syracuse to Massachusetts to Jamestown, NY and back to Syracuse. It is not clear why but he moved to California after the turn of the century. He eventually moved to San Diego and in the early 1900's was working for his former famous employee, Irving Gill. Years later, he was working for an architect in Oakland, California that specialized in bungalows and Arts & Crafts style homes. Though several of his buildings still survive in Syracuse and Jamestown, his most significant extant legacy is in the work he did at Chautauqua.