Ralph J. Houghton Performance Center
Sheridan Road and 58th Street,
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Architects: John D. Chubb
Functions: Community Arts Center
Previous Names: Central High School Auditorium, Kenosha High School Auditorium, Mary D. Bradford Auditorium, Reuther Alternative High School Auditorium, Walter Reuther Central Auditorium
Located in downtown Kenosha and part of the Kenosha Unified School District, the auditorium was deliberately designed in movie-palace style, and is at the southeast corner of the National Register of Historic Places high school which occupies a massive block-square building constructed in 1924 and designed by Chicago based architect John D. Chubb. When built, it was called Kenosha High School; Central High School is the name engraved in its namestone. The seat standards carry the CHS logo. There are pipe-organ screens, but no pipe organ was ever installed.
The building features a Neo-Classical style auditorium of 1,400 seats with commissioned original oil paintings by Chicago artist Gustave Brandt, including a 44-foot fresco over the proscenium symbolizing Kenosha history over a century and emphasizing the arts and sciences. The 1926 school yearbook explained that the panel "shows the High School as the culmination of the ideals of such educators as Col. (Michael) Frank (considered the father of Wisconsin’s public-school system), Col. (John) McMynn (the school’s first principal) and Mrs. (Mary D.) Bradford (the former superintendent of Kenosha public schools); a high school with a curriculum varied enough to fit the needs of all classes of students and one which will place Kenosha among the first of the cities of Wisconsin in education."
Two large allegorical canvases next to the organ screens illustrate physical training and mental training, with smaller canvases along the balcony edge portraying educational subjects. The auditorium features two backlit leaded stained-glass ceilings which admit daylight over the orchestra floor and balcony. Shutters cover the ceilings for presentations requiring darkness. The auditorium acoustics are considered near-ideal and a number of recordings have been made within. John Phillip Sousa’s band appeared here on several occasions.
It was renamed Ralph J. Houghton Performance Center on May 11, 2019.
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