Hilbert Circle Theatre
In 1916, several local businessmen set out to finance the construction of a theater on Monument Circle, on a site occupied by a livery stable for much of the 19th century. Designed by Indianapolis architects Rubus & Hunter, the theater was built in a Neo-Classical Revival style – marked by symmetry, bright colors and simplicity and inspired by the arts of ancient Greece and Rome – and its interior was designed in the style of 18th-century architect Robert Adam, who employed motifs from Greek, Etruscan and Pompeian artists.
The pastoral-themed mural over the marquee, which still remains, was created by Irvington Group artist Clifton Wheeler.
For much of the 20th century, the theater served as a majestic venue for film and live acts. In 1928, the first movie with sound ever shown in Indianapolis, The Jazz Singer, was shown at the theater. In the 1940s, big band jazz groups, including the Glenn Miller Orchestra, played on the theater’s stage.
By the 1970s, the Circle Theatre had fallen into disrepair as suburban movie theaters were becoming more popular. In 1980, then-commercial real estate broker George Kuhn approached Zane Todd, the chairman and chief executive officer of Indianapolis Power & Light Company (the next-door neighbor to the Circle Theatre), about having IPL buy and renovate the theater for the community. IPL purchased the building, took the lead in the theater's $7 million renovation, and the new home of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra became a realization on October 12, 1984.
"I remember feeling proud and excited, almost giddy, walking through the Circle Theatre's stage door for the first time in 1984. It was, and still is, an honor to offer our musical efforts to Indy's citizens from that central location in downtown Indianapolis."
- Diane Evans, ISO Principal Harp
In 1996, Stephen and Tomisue Hilbert made a significant gift to endow the theater, which was then renamed the Hilbert Circle Theatre.
Thanks to a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc, the ISO replaced the theater's 80-year-old seats in 2013.The new seats retain the historic integrity of the theater, and the re-configuration allows for greater comfort and accessibility for patrons.
Today, the 1,660-seat Hilbert Circle Theatre and stage area is customized for the needs of an Orchestra and is an outstanding venue for live musical performances of all kinds. The hall, lobbies and Wood Room facility are available during non-performance dates for meetings, seminars, receptions, concerts or public/private functions. Tours are also available.
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