Given that Benaroya Hall is our home, then Marion Oliver McCaw Hall is certainly our “home away from home.” We play approximately 15% of our services for the Seattle Opera, which holds its performances in the newly rebuilt McCaw Hall, designed by Owen Richards and Mark Reddington of LMN Architects.
The original forerunner of McCaw was the Civic Auditorium, constructed in 1927, funded initially by a saloon owner’s 1881 bequest of $20,000 to the city to build a hall for civic and artistic purposes. The advent of the 1962 World's Fair brought an external facelift to the old Auditorium, with substantial interior improvements, along with a new name – the Seattle Opera House.
But with the approach of the 21st century, however, it was apparent that the old building was deficient in many ways, including structurally, aesthetically, and artistically. A major campaign was launched by Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet (the two primary tenants of the hall), and the Seattle Center, to both upgrade and transform the old building.
The project was energized by a lead gift of $20 million from Bruce, Craig, John, and Keith McCaw of McCaw Cellular Communications, in honor of their mother’s lifelong support of the arts. It is the largest arts or cultural capital gift ever made in the Pacific Northwest, and was supplemented by The Kreielsheimer Foundation’s substantial gift of $10 million. Additional funding came from Seattle voters’ approval of Proposition One bonds in 1999.
Over 70% of McCaw Hall is new construction, including a new auditorium and lobbies, greatly improved backstage and orchestra pit – and even a trap door! The reshaped auditorium improves sightlines and creates a more intimate feeling for the audience, in addition to providing improved acoustics, thanks to Jaffe Holden Acoustics.
We are proud to be part of Seattle Opera and thrilled to be able to work at McCaw Hall, the jewel of Seattle Center!