Some secrets of Severance Hall, home of The Cleveland Orchestra

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CLEVELAND - Most Clevelanders know that Severance Hall is the home of the world-famous Cleveland Orchestra.

But there are lots of little details that make up this magnificent building that many may not know. Here are a few:

In 1928, John Severance and his wife Elisabeth decided that the Cleveland Orchestra needed a permanent home. They pledged $1 million toward the building, which Clevelanders would have to match. In spite of the Depression, they did.

Groundbreaking for the hall began in December of 1929 and the first concert there, conducted by Nikolai Sokoloff, was held on February 5, 1931.

Today, the lobby that concert-goers know as Smith Lobby is a place to sit and relax before a concert. But in 1931, chauffeurs drove patrons' cars right into the lobby and parked at a nearby garage. When the concert was over, patrons could call for their cars from special phones in their boxes.

Severance was a college friend of Charles Martin Hall, founder of Alcoa Aluminum. The Art Deco designers of the day loved the new metal, aluminum, so there is an abundance of it throughout the building.

There are also many lotus blossom flowers, in all different mediums, throughout Severance Hall. They are there in tribute to Elisabeth Severance, who passed away before the hall was built. The lotus blossom was her favorite flower.

Reinberger Chamber Hall is a 400-seat hall that was designed to make people feel as if they were in the music salon of a grand home.

The Bogomolny-Kozerefski Grand Foyer is, next to the Concert Hall itself, probably the best-known space in Severance Hall. It is full of bronze and brass, with 24 red-marble columns imported from Italy. The floor contains countless tiny marble chips that form lotus blossoms. And yes, there really is a bolt still in the floor of the Foyer. It's said to be the "only imperfection" in the entire space.

The Concert Hall has an aluminum ceiling with a pattern that is supposed to have copied the lace in Elisabeth Severance's wedding gown. The stage has been renovated two times since 1931, resulting in that amazing "Cleveland sound" known throughout the world.

Behind the stage is the Norton Memorial Organ, which has over 6,000 organ pipes. The largest pipe is 32 feet long. The smallest is only 7 inches!

For more information on Severance Hall, click right here. If you want to check out the orchestra's schedule, click here.

Thanks to Severance Hall archivist Deborah Hefling for a very special tour and all of the information about this gorgeous home of The Cleveland Orchestra.


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