Staff Blogger: Noah Manskar, Journalism/Newspaper Editor Intern
Lakeside Chautauqua’s 2,600-seat Hoover Auditorium hosts a large number of performances, lectures and worship services each summer season.
Its stage is no stranger to celebrities—Taylor Dayne, Three Dog Night and Steven Curtis Chapman are just the most recent additions to the long list of big-name Lakeside visitors. But who captivated Hoover audiences in years past?
The Lakeside Heritage Society Archives reveal Lakesiders have long welcomed history-makers to the signature theater. Here are a few of the many highlights:
- Susan B. Anthony
Before it was Hoover Auditorium, the space on Third Street was a wood-framed venue called Central Auditorium. Anthony, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, spoke there on July 25, 1895. Though she was 75 years old at the time, she remained active with the National American Women’s Suffrage Association and traveled extensively—in fact, two months before making the trip to Lakeside, she rode on a mule through Yosemite National Park. Anthony was actually a backup speaker that night for fellow women’s rights activist Anna Howard Shaw, who had come down with pneumonia.
- William Jennings Bryan
The Salem, Ill., native wore many hats in his storied career—lawyer, politician, U.S. secretary of state and the most popular Chautauqua speaker of the 20th century. Between 1908 and 1916, he gave 35 to 45 Chautauqua speeches a year, usually for $500 apiece. His August 1922 appearance at Lakeside came after his heyday, but just three years prior to his argument against evolution in the famous Scopes trial.
- Amelia Earhart
Lakesiders were lucky enough to see one of America’s most famous aviators two years in a row, in 1934 and 1935. She captivated her audience so much the first time, the Lakesider reported, that the Lakeside Association “acceded to the demand to have her return.” Earhart was well known for her solo trans-Atlantic flight in 1932, but just seven months before her second visit to Lakeside she became the first to fly across the Pacific from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Oakland, Ca.
- Eleanor Roosevelt
The preeminent First Lady drew a crowd of 4,000 to Hoover Auditorium on July 11, 1940. With World War II underway in Europe, she spoke to Lakesiders about “The Relationship of the Individual to the Community,” emphasizing the importance of being an active citizen. She wrote about her visit the next day in her nationally syndicated column, introducing newspaper readers nationwide to Lakeside.
- Robert McFerrin, Sr.
Lakeside saw the famous baritone singer while he was still a rising star. When he came to Hoover Auditorium on Aug. 10, 1954, he had become the first African-American to train with New York City’s Metropolitan Opera, but had yet to make his onstage debut there. He became the first black man to do so less than a year later, on January 27, 1955 — just a few weeks after the next groundbreaking Hoover guest…
- Marian Anderson
One of the most amazing singers in American history, the contralto became the first black person ever to sing in a Metropolitan Opera production on January 7, 1955. She came to Lakeside on Aug. 4 of the next year, having toured across the U.S. and around the world. She gave her Hoover audience a sample of her incredible repertoire: opera, traditional spirituals and pieces by Tchaikovsky, Schubert and Handel.
- Pat Boone
The early 1980s saw two visits from the pop crooner, actor and author. He took the Hoover Auditorium stage in July 1982 and 1984. Boone is also a devout member of the Church of Christ, and in the 1970s he and his wife, Shirley, led Bible studies with fellow celebrities including Priscilla Presley, Doris Day and others.
- Ray Charles
The highly influential soul singer and songwriter graced the Hoover Auditorium stage in August 1985. A major figure in American music at the time, he had recorded the charity hit “We Are the World” earlier that year. Charles kept busy outside of music—the Lakesider reported one of his hobbies was building and repairing airplanes, despite his blindness. “If he could get a license, Ray could fly a plane,” his personal pilot said.
- Emmylou Harris
Through the 1970s, Harris went from talented college dropout to country superstar. The Lakesider reported that by the time she came to Lakeside in August 1989, she had eight gold records and five Grammy awards. She was still churning out music when she performed in Hoover. In January of that year, she released Bluebird, her 15th full-length album. Two years before, she collaborated with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt on Trio, which received a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
What big-name Hoover performers have been your favorites over the years? Which performer are you looking forward to seeing this summer? Who would make your summer if they came to Lakeside? Tell us in the comments below.