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, Jessye Norman, Marilyn Horne, Alvin Ailey, Itzhak Perlman, Van Cliburn, and Ray Charles.
In 1997, through efforts of the City of Portland, PCA Great Performances, 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, PCA Great Performances, 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.” PCA Great Performances 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. 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 and diverse artists as BB King, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Lyle Lovett, Godsmack, Cake, Gov’t Mule, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Ani DiFranco, Clint Black, Jerry Seinfeld, and Jackson Browne. 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.