Kingsbury Hall, the first auditorium of the University of Utah, opened on 22 May 1930. Funded by the State of Utah at $275,000, the assembly hall was built to accommodate college theatrical productions, student assemblies, commencement exercises, and all other gatherings sponsored by the University. The building also housed the speech department. The hall was named in honor of Joseph T. Kingsbury, who served as President of the University from 1897 until 1926.[1, 2, 3, 5, 6]
Speaking of the upcoming dedication of Kingsbury Hall, the Utah Chronicle proclaimed, “Not since the Park Building was dedicated has there been, and not again until the Engineering Building is finished will there be a bigger day in the University's history of progress than this coming Thursday when Kingsbury hall will be officially opened."
Excavation for Kingsbury Hall began in September 1928. Anderson and Young were architects, W. J. Dean and Vernon W. Dean contractors, and R. K. Brown the engineer. The hall was designed to harmonize with the Park and Union buildings in color and architecture.[1 & 2] Kingsbury Hall is one of nine buildings in the University Circle historic district, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.[8 & 9]
The ground floor of Kingsbury Hall held “a check room, dressing room, a music store room, general storage room, rest rooms for men and women, five laboratories with raised platforms and blackboards, and a dramatic work room which is to be finished in an interesting manner with one end of the room occupied by a stage well equipped with footlights and flood lights. This room will be used for rehearsing and for private theatrical functions.”
The first floor featured “general offices, ticket offices, two dressing rooms.” The mezzanine held “offices, rest rooms for men and women, and three dressing rooms.”
“In designing the auditorium, the most up-to-date theatres and halls in the country were carefully studied, with the result that the problems of hearing, seeing, and seating have been solved in the best manner possible.” “Every faculty for assemblies, plays, moving picture shows and classes is available in the building.”
The auditorium, including balcony, was equipped with 2009 “form fitting” seats. An additional 200 could be seated on the stage.[4 & 5] The “splendid architecture” ensured that “even those sitting in the topmost gallery will have unobstructed vision of the complete platform.” “A motion picture booth and the organ loft will be on the floor line of the balcony, and the organ grills will be in the ceiling of the proscenium arch.” The organ was to be installed “at some future date.”
The stage was “carefully worked out in accordance with modern ideals” and was designed to be “large enough to take care of almost any production.” The velvet curtain adorning the stage cost $2,000. The lighting was to be “the most elaborate in the city.” The switch board was described as “a masterpiece of electrical genius, capable of producing any desirable lighting effect.” The orchestra pit was to be equipped with a hydraulic lift, at a future date.
The University of Utah dedicated Kingsbury Hall, at noon on 22 May 1930, in “one of the most impressive ceremonies in the history of the institution.” In attendance were Utah Governor George Henry Dern, the Board of Regents, the faculty, student body, friends, and patrons of the school. Officials and faculty members, wearing caps and gowns, occupied the platform.
In his brief welcome, University President George Thomas said that Kingsbury Hall “would make possible college activities heretofore denied the school and bring about a greater spirit of unity and loyalty in the student body and faculty.
Governor Dern, introduced as the force responsible for the project, said the University was worthy of the finest “facilities for the betterment of culture and education” in Utah because the University was the “cultural center and head of the educational system of the state.”
President-Emeritus Joseph T. Kingsbury gave a brief acknowledgement of the honor conferred upon him, then expressed his wish that the building bearing his name would “inspire students to perform more willingly and happily the duties they owe to themselves, their friends, and humanity in gaining the fine cultural things of life.”
Professor Levi Edgar Young, one of four teachers from the early days of the University, closed the services by offering the official dedicatory prayer.
Under the direction of Professor Maude May Babcock, the Theta Alpha Phi dramatic fraternity performed Maeterlinck's “The Blue Bird” for three nights. Ticket prices for the opening production were $1.00, 75c, and 50c.[3, 4] “No detail is being spared to make the production the biggest ever attempted by the University.”
Reviewing the opening night performance, the Utah Daily Chronicle said, “Every phase of the production moved with almost professional ease and speed . . .” The play included “some of the most gorgeous scenes that have been produced in University dramatic circles for many years.” The dancing “was of the highest order, perfectly in harmony with the general theme of the play.” “The performers knew their lines well and read them with a good deal of expression and stage presence. All of the children that took part in the production did exceptionally well . . . The usherings, the stage management, the myriad details of the production were creditably handled.”
1. "Architects Are Now at Work on Kinsbury Hall", Utah Daily Chronicle, 16 October 1928, page 1
2. "Kingsbury Hall to be Completed in near Future", Utah Daily Chronicle, 04 October 1929, page 1
3. "Kingsbury Hall Dedicated May 15", Utah Daily Chronicle, 18 April 1930, page 1
4. "Kingsbury Hall $2000 Curtain Will be Hung Wednesday", Utah Daily Chronicle, 06 May 1930, page 1
5. "Kingsbury Hall Dedication Set For Thursday Noon", Utah Daily Chronicle, 20 May 1930, page 1
6. "Kingsbury Hall is Dedicated", Utah Daily Chronicle, 23 May 1930, page 1
7. "Bluebird Scores on Opening Night in New Edifice", Utah Daily Chronicle, 23 May 1930, page 1
8. “National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: University of Utah Circle”, National Park Service, June 1977
9. “National Register Information System", National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service, 2009