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Preservationists pressure Chautauqua to save Amphitheater

Photo courtesy of Chautauqua Institution

Plans by the Chautauqua Institution to demolish the historic Amphitheater and replace it with a modern replica are being challenged by preservationists and many Chautauqua residents.  The Institution's leadership team is under increasing pressure to find a way of saving the existing structure.

The State Office of Historic Preservation was the latest to weigh in with a letter to Chautauqua trustees last week.  Chautauqua spokesman Jordan Steves says Institution leaders are listening.

"We completely understand the point of view of these preservations groups who are thinking about the architectural history of the (Amphitheater)," Steves said.

But Steves continued that  it may not be feasible to save the Amphitheater's iconic roof within a tight timeline of doing all the work during one off-season. 

Brian Berg of Chicago, who has a summer home at Chautauqua, rejects such thinking.  He says Chautauqua leaders need to work with preservationists to find a way of preserving the existing structure.

"I think if you have an alternative option or another plan design, then there must be room for creativity," Berg said. 

Chautauqua wants to expand the stage, add an orchestra pit and create more seating. 

Cost of the Amphitheater project is $30 million.