Today, The Wallace Bowl is now the home of the Park District’s summertime Starlight Theatre, which provides a unique outdoor setting for musical and dramatic performances offered to the public free of charge. The WPA began construction in 1936 of an outdoor amphitheater at the Lakefront. This outdoor stage was officially dedicated as the Wilmette Outdoor Amphitheatre in 1946. The same space would later be named the Wallace Bowl in honor of Gordon Wallace, superintendent of parks from 1936-68.
This project was made possible through the generosity of Charles H. Feltman, one of the commissioners of the Wilmette park district. It was also built with the help of federal funds. However another helping hand touched upon the Wallace Bowl. The Wilmette Home Owners association worked in cooperation with the Wilmette Park Board, Chamber of Commerce, Civic League, American Legion, and Wilmette Woman’s Club. Walter C. Farrar, chairman of the committee on arrangements. He was assisted by F. Dewey Anderson, president of the Wilmette State bank, as well as Clinton B. Cochrane, L. W. Becker, Jr., and Carl Peterson.
Grass for the bowl was completely sodded and quantities of shrubbery have been planted. Seats for 2,500 auditors were constructed of Menominee stone and topped from redwood. The seats are arranged in 17 tiers along the natural slope leading to Lake Michigan. The opening concert was the 80-piece Illinois Symphony Orchestra on July 14, 1937. To help create the theatre programming, Gordon B. Wallace, and the park commissioners were aided by Theodore Fuchs, director of the Northwestern University Theater, and by Professor Samuel Sheldon, director of the Carolina Play Makers.
The Wallace Bowl brought life, natural free art, and activities during the time of the Great Depression and built a greater sense of community in Wilmette, Illinois. Besides its natural beauty, it is one of the most functional recreational features any community could have. It also provided jobs and brought art to the suburbs. By providing facilities for musical entertainment, stage plays, and general civic programs of various kinds, it has the possibility to reach many different types of individuals.
In 1982 the Park Board determined that age and the elements had taken their toll on the Wallace Bowl, which was originally dedicated as the Wilmette Outdoor Amphitheatre in 1946. The Ouilmette Foundation, a non-profit organization, was founded to raise money for a complete rehabilitation of the Wallace Bowl and restore the historical site as close to its original state as possible.
The rejuvenated Wallace Bowl was rededicated in July, 1984, and included new stone terraces topped with Douglas fir benches; a new drainage system, new lighting, an enlarged stage and new landscaping and paved pathways allowing access for those with disabilities.
The Wallace Bowl is still being utilized by the community at large today, but is in dire need of an upgrade. Work still needs to be done.
Primary Sources: 1. "Bowl Stage to Be Dedicated Sunday Is Presented To Wilmette By Feltman." Wilmette Life, Vol, XXXV, No. 12 edition, sec. Page 1, July 25, 1946. 2. "On The Cover: Result of Citizen's Generosity." Wilmette Life, Vol,XXXV, NO 13 edition, sec. Page 1, August 01, 1946. 3. "C.H. Feltman, Board Member, Donates Fund." Wilmette Life, Vol,XXXIV,NO.33 edition, sec. Page 1, December 20, 1945. 4. "Wilmette Bowl Will Open For Summer Concert." Wilmette Life, Vol. XXVI, No.8 edition, sec. Pages 3 and 6, July 01, 1937. 5. Copy courtesy of Wilmette Historical Museum - 2 Original photographs Secondary Source: Wilmette Park District, "Park District History." Accessed May 08, 2013. http://www.wilmettepark.org/about-us/history.
Project originally submitted by Brittany Wolf on May 21, 2013.
We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.SUBMIT MORE INFORMATION OR PHOTOGRAPHS FOR THIS SITE