The Auditorium was originally built in 1912 to replace two former halls both destroyed by fire. What was then known as City Hall Auditorium was a classic example of colonial style, boasting porticos and columns, a deep court and large wings.
Cyrus Curtis, a publishing tycoon, donated the Kotzschmar Memorial Organ, a celebrated instrument with 5,000 pipes of varying sizes that was incorporated into the stage. Many famous performers have graced the auditorium stage throughout its long history, including John Philip Sousa, George Gershwin, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, La Scala Grand Opera Company, Roy Rogers, Marilyn Horne, Alvin Ailey, Itzhak Perlman, Dave Brubek, and Ray Charles.
In 1997, through efforts of the City of Portland, Portland Ovations, the Portland Symphony Orchestra, concerned citizens and the corporate and philanthropic communities, the renamed Merrill Auditorium was completely renovated with improved acoustics, sightlines and stage facilities.
Since the restoration, Merrill Auditorium has established itself as one of New England’s finest performing arts centers, with the Portland Symphony Orchestra, Portland Ovations, and the Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ as its prime tenants.
The nationally recognized Portland Symphony Orchestra presents a complete season including the holiday classic “Magic of Christmas.” Portland Ovations brings in internationally recognized performances including names such as Yo Yo Ma, Isaac Stern and James Galway, operas and Broadway shows such as Miss Saigon and Rent. The Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ welcomes organists from all over the world for its Summer Concert Series.
In addition, Merrill Auditorium has had the pleasure of hosting such legendary artists as BB King, Willie Nelson, Bill Cosby, Godsmack, Government Mule, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Seinfeld, STYX, Don Henley, George Carlin and Vince Gill. Besides the amazing concerts, comedy, theatrical performances, and special events, Merrill Auditorium also serves as a local and statewide cultural hub for dance, benefits, lectures, and graduations. and strives to provide a diverse variety of programming for our community and the region.