Worthington 150: Memorial Auditorium built in 1931

An addition to the junior and senior high complex, the auditorium was designed with the classic art deco features so popular at the time.

Memorial Auditorium
File Photo: Memorial Auditorium image from:
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WORTHINGTON — When Memorial Auditorium was built for $55,000 in 1931, you could buy a gallon of peaches for 47 cents at Silverberg’s or a man’s dress shirt at Wolff’s for 89 cents.

One Worthington woman who was close to the welfare scene expressed it another way: “I never told my kids how tough we had it. And I forgot it as soon as I could.”
E. O. Olson was a prominent figure in Worthington's history
Worthington was a natural for the natural ice industry. The railroads were here. The lake was here.

An addition to the junior and senior high complex, the auditorium was designed with the classic art deco features so popular at the time.

In his dedication address, George Wycoff, Minneapolis, said, “No matter how long these new structures last, their influence will go on and on through the ages.”

Shared by the school and the community, Memorial Auditorium was used for athletic events, music and arts, Miss Worthington pageants, community worship services, commencements and even school lunches.

Many memorable performers took the stage over the years, including actor Hal Holbrook, who gave one of his first performances of “An Evening with Mark Twain.” Beloved Minnesota personality Cedric Adams hosted a live broadcast to a capacity audience.


Following a new high school building in the 1950s and a new junior high building in 1947, Memorial Auditorium was often left unattended. When the old high school buildings were scheduled for demolition in 1982, the citizens of Worthington voted to preserve the auditorium. It became a municipal property, and an advisory board of directors was formed and renovations began. With the help of a bond, old locker rooms were converted into dressing rooms, a new heating system was installed, and a light and sound system was added. The main floor got a new coat of paint and new bathrooms. Throughout the improvements, the building design was not altered.

The most visually impactful improvement to Memorial Auditorium is the lobby addition, which includes expanded restroom facilities, a concession area and grand staircase.
Globe file photo

As established by the city council in 1992, “The purpose of the advisory board of directors shall be to advise the city council on the management and operation of Memorial Auditorium; and to engage in and conduct, as the board determines, various fundraising activities for the benefit of the facility; and to promote wider use of the facility for the benefit of the community.”

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A group called Friends of the Auditorium, incorporated in 1993, purchased new technical equipment that same year, allowing the first showing of Corn Off The Cob. Sponsored by Friends and the Advisory Board, all work was done on a volunteer basis, and was the launching pad for future community productions.

In 1994, the Friends held an organizational workshop to set future goals. That led to the hiring of Margaret Vosburgh as the first manager in 1995, a year that also brought a major restoration — the building got a new roof and windows, a refinished stage and terrazzo floors, and footlights.

During the following season, the 1906 Steinway grand piano was restored and valued at $45,000.

Today, Tammy Makram serves as the manager of Worthington’s Memorial Auditorium and continues to bring in numerous concerts, plays and performances each year. The facility has undergone some major upgrades in recent years, including all new seating on the main floor and balcony.

A timeline that celebrates big moments in our town's history.
The Indian culture along the shores of Lake Okabena remained undisturbed until the mid-19th century, when white settlers first moved into the area.
The first public school consisted of 49 students and two teachers who met in various rented rooms throughout the village.
At least 50 confirmed reservations were received from Midwestern windsurfers of various skill levels.
One night he ran smack-dab into a group of evangelists while staggering out of a saloon. He was converted on the spot. Since then he traveled all across the country preaching the gospel and convincing sinners to “get right with God.”
The city’s Army National Guard unit, Co. F of the 215th Coast Artillery, was ordered to active duty in 1940, a full year before the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
First festival focused on playing soccer.
Committee member recounts sorting everything from dresses and suits to shoes.
It was a noisy, hilarious and potentially dangerous scene. But the merchants of 1934 declared it a huge success.
Ludlow a figure in Worthington's early history.
“Building international relations on a community-to-community basis … represents a new approach to democracy.”
Jack started as an immigrant shoemaker and went on to lead a flamboyant rags-to-riches life. He was part of an interesting era in Worthington’s history.
Last local casualties were from Vietnam war.
The founder of this unique partnership visited Crailsheim in 1958, when she was decorated with the “Bundersverdienstkreuz Erster Klasse.”
His home still stands today as a bed and breakfast.
The Mobergs and Larsons came to America together in 1870, an arduous journey by boat, foot, wheel car and railroad.
Worthington’s economic base began to broaden from the narrow pedestal of farming to the much broader one of agriculture.
Worthington soared to a new population of 3,481 persons by the 1920s.
In 1916, a hexagonal bandstand was built about 75 feet out on Lake Okabena at the foot of Third Avenue.
His most notable accomplishment was in 1911, when the four-story hotel which bears his name was built, with 118 feet of it faced on 10th Street and the courthouse square.
From the first permanent house to the largest King Turkey Day in 1966, Worthington has a storied past.
Prior to 1909, post was termed president.
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