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Eastern Michigan University
Ypsilanti, MI, USA 48197
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Historic Tour > Virtual Tour > Pease Auditorium

Pease Auditorium

Pease Auditorium - earlier
Pease Auditorium - Present

Pease Auditorium (when EMU
was still the Michigan State
Normal School)

Pease Auditorium (Present)

Historic Name(s): Pierce Auditorium (prior to dedication), Dedicated as Frederic H. Pease Auditorium, 1914

Date constructed: 1914

Architect: Smith, Hinchman, & Grylls, Detroit

Style of Architecture: Neoclassical built in brick and glazed terra cotta

Original Use: Auditorium

Dates of renovation: 1959: added concrete floor and new seats in auditorium 1993-94 Interior restoration and technical remodeling.

Current Use: Auditorium primarily for musical events.

National Register of Historic Places: 1974

History: Music has held an important place at Eastern Michigan for over one hundred years. In 1881 Michigan State Normal School established the Normal Conservatory of Music. The program grew rapidly and by the beginning of the twentieth century was in need of further facilities. Though President Lewis H. Jones had hoped to build an auditorium during his time as president, 1903-11, he only succeeded in completing one building, Sherzer Hall. It fell to his successor as president, Charles McKenny (1912-33) to fund a new auditorium.

The new auditorium was constructed in 1914 for $243,963. Initially, the building was named for John D. Pierce, the first State Superintendent of Instruction. Plans of the building had shown both the new auditorium and, adjacent, new conservatory building to be named after the head of the music department, Frederic H. Pease. Pease was the professor of music from 1858-1909 and Head of Conservatory of Music. Students remembered him as an exacting teacher and a deep believer in the moral and spiritual influence of music in education. Sluggish funding made many supporters fear that the conservatory would never be built. Sighting Pease’s close relation to music, they requested that the name of the auditorium be changed to Pease to memorialize this great man. The school honored their request, changing the name to Pease Auditorium in 1915.

Frederick Alexander

Frederick Alexander

When it opened the building was considered to have excellent acoustical properties. The grand neoclassical façade and classical details of the interior made the auditorium a grand space for musical productions of all types. Nevertheless, in the mind of Frederick Alexander, one thing was missing. Alexander, a professor of music in the first decades of the twentieth century, had hoped to have an organ installed when the Auditorium opened in 1915. Due to lack of funds an organ, much less a new conservatory, was out of the question. Determined to remedy the lack of an organ, Alexander donated $85,000 to the university to build an organ in his will.

Erich Goldschmidt, EMU professor of organ (1955-78) designed and voiced, or tuned, the Frederic Alexander Memorial Organ for its home on the stage of Pease Auditorium. It took Goldschmidt an entire year to tune the pipes properly in his workshop in the basement of Pease. Its first performance took place in 1960. The organ was restored between 1993 and 1999 and now sings with its old voice.

The Auditorium itself has experienced a number of renovations. In 1959, a concrete floor and new seats were added. The Auditorium was remodeled in 1993-94. Although the 1959 concrete floor had altered the formerly excellent acoustics, the school elected to leave it in place because the organ had been tuned to the hall as it was in 1960, after the new floor had been installed. Most of the 1993-94 remodeling consisted of improving antiquated electrical, mechanical, and plumbing systems. Designers added handicapped access, including an elevator column and brought interior mechanics up to modern specifications. After an interior restoration including repainting and new carpets, the building reopened in 1995. Further renovations and repairs occurred in 2008. Today, Pease is central to EMU’s music department and seats 1,500.

Location - Pease Auditorium


Location of Pease Auditorium (Click on the image for a bigger view)