Lyceum Theatre

Colored postcard image of the Lyceum Theatre, probably late 19th century.
Type: Unmarked Location Involved: Ingersoll, Robert Green
Location: 36 South Clinton Avenue
Rochester, NY
Cause: Freethought / Atheism / Secular Humanism

On Sunday, February 23, 1896, famed freethought orator Robert Green Ingersoll delivered his lecture "The Foundations of Faith" at Rochester’s Lyceum Theatre.

The Lyceum was built in 1888, financed by leading Rochester business figures, and operated by owner Abe E. Wollf and his family. The ornate 2,000-seat theatre quickly dominated fast-growing Rochester’s artistic scene, hosting performances by noted talent including Edwin Booth, Sarah Bernhardt, a young Helen Hayes, and the Barrymores ... and, of course, Ingersoll, who routinely lectured in the finest theatre of any city in which he appeared.

With the 1920s, the development of new movie houses along East Main Street eroded the Lyceum’s prestige. The grand old opera house deteriorated and closed permanently in 1934. It was soon destroyed and replaced by a series of parking lots. In the 2010’s, the site was redevloped as Midtown Commons, an attractively designed urban park.