NCR Auditorium

Location: South Main St.
Year built: 1912
Year demolished: 1979-80

A symbol of National Cash Register in its heyday, NCR Auditorium opened in 1912. For decades it was the site of free noon movies for NCR employees and graduation ceremonies for area high schools. It fell to the wrecking ball in 1980.

By Mickey Davis
(published in Al & Marge, 9/29/95)

The name NCR rekindles many fond memories, but for thousands of Miami Valley-area high school graduates, their lasting connection with NCR was the NCR Auditorium.

From 1924 through 1977, thousands received their high school diplomas ingraduation ceremonies at the NCR Auditorium, formerly on South Main Street, afew blocks south of Stewart Street.

The building was a cornerstone of the Dayton community for 67 years untilit was leveled in 1980.

The Stivers High School class of 1924 was the first to hold commencement ceremonies there; the Kettering College of Medical Arts class of 1977 thelast.

When the building opened in 1912, it was called the ``NCR Hall ofIndustrial Education.'' That name seemed rather heavy, however.

So more than 20 years later, the name was changed to the ``NCRSchoolhouse,'' which didn't exactly fit either.

It was much more than a schoolhouse, Col. Edward A. Deeds believed.

So in 1938, Deeds, NCR Co. president and chairman of the board, decided theNCR Schoolhouse should be renamed the NCR Auditorium.

The stately building with its six, 30-foot-tall Grecian columns wasdesigned primarily for company education programs. Consequently, it never hadthe look or the feel of a schoolhouse. It had a special feel, though.

Many Daytonians recall the free movies in the auditorium, a tradition begunin the 1920s by John H. Patterson.

The movies were temporarily discontinued during the Depression and WorldWar II, but resumed in 1945. In 1962, declining attendance was given as thereason for ending the series.

Actually, the decline resulted from the fact that nearly every house inDayton owned a television set by the early 1960s, with cartoons and other children's programming regularly scheduled on Saturdays.

Besides Saturday movies and class commencement ceremonies, the auditoriumshowed movies to NCR employees at noon, was a primary site for company andcivic meetings, Community Chest (predecessor to to United Appeal) rallies andCivic Music Association concerts.

In February 1955, a segment of The Steve Allen Show, a forerunner ofNBC-TV's Tonight Show, originated from the stage of the NCR Auditorium. The 90-minute show featured Allen, Dayton comedian Jonathan Winters andsingers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

The Ruth Lyons Show was broadcast from the auditorium in May, 1955.

Band leader Horace Heidt (1941) performed in NCR's Auditorium, as did FredWaring, who brought his famed Pennsylvanians, a singing choral group. Radionewscaster Lowell Thomas, a native of Darke County, spoke at the auditorium onseveral occasions.

In 1913, NCR added the pillared portico and expanded seating to 1,200. Athird addition in 1922 increased seating capacity to 2,274.

In the early 1970s, the building was in need of renovation, and NCRapproached the city of Dayton, Montgomery County and non-government agencies to inquire if there was interest in saving the building.

NCR offered to donate it to the University of Dayton, Montgomery County,the city, the Dayton Board of Education and the Dayton Philharmonic.

However, none could afford the estimated $1- to $2 million renovation costsand the cost of more than $250,000 for new heating and air-conditioningequipment as well as the $100,000 annual upkeep.

The landmark was doomed.

Despite some public outcry, demolition of the 67-year-old building began inNovember 1979 and was completed by February 1980.

The huge pipe organ, played by Robert Kline at most graduation ceremoniesand a fixture in NCR's auditorium 56 years, was donated to the VictoryTheatre, now the Victoria Theatre, in 1978.