Chautauqua Pavilion


Robert F. Kennedy speaks



The origin of Hastings' famed Chautauqua Pavilion is tied to the Chautauqua movement which swept small town America at the turn of the century, and began in Hastings with a week long religious revival in 1905. Its success inspired a group of local businessmen to form the Hastings Chautauqua Association in 1906. In July, 1906 the first Hastings Chautauqua, with a ten day long program, was held in a huge tent at Prospect Park. 8,000 persons attended, and its success resulted in the decision to build a permanent pavilion.

In 1907 the Peterson Brothers Construction Company built the pavilion from the plans of architect C.W. Way. The pavilion measures 121 by 151 feet and seats 3,500 people. In 1978 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The nomination form provides this description: "As an engineering structure, this unique building presents a significant solution to a major engineering problem-that is, to cover a large space without interfering interior columns. The major elements include large triangular trusses and interdependent Howe trusses Architecturally the structure has significance, not only as a fine example of a particular and rare building type, but also because of the esthetic distinction achieved through its form and subtle structural modulations."

The Chautauqua remained a part of Hastings summer activities until the 1920s when radio and the movies replaced it. Among those whose voices echoed in the rafters of the pavilion were William Jennings Bryan, Ezra Meeker, Robert M. LaFollette, George W. Norris, and Robert F. Kennedy.

On May 30, 1992 Hastings residents were dismayed to learn that arsonists had set fire to the pavilion during the night. Outraged and heartsick citizens wrote letters to the Hastings Tribune, and swamped city offices with calls demanding the pavilion be restored. The rebuilt pavilion, nearly identical to the original structure, was rededicated "to the cause of human betterment" on September 6, 1993.