Lisner Auditorium

Lisner Auditorium
Address 730 21st St, NW
Washington, D.C.
United States
Owner George Washington University
Capacity 1,490
Opened 1943
Architect Faulkner and Kingsbury

Lisner Auditorium
Coordinates 38°53′57.57″N 77°2′49.13″W / 38.8993250°N 77.0469806°W / 38.8993250; -77.0469806Coordinates: 38°53′57.57″N 77°2′49.13″W / 38.8993250°N 77.0469806°W / 38.8993250; -77.0469806
NRHP Reference # 90001548[1]
Designated  October 25, 1990

Lisner Auditorium is an auditorium located on the campus of The George Washington University, at 730 21st Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C.. It is named for Abram Lisner, a trustee of the University who donated the money for its construction. The German-born Lisner had owned Washington's Palais Royale department store.[2] It was designed by Faulkner and Kingsbury and built by Charles H. Tompkins Company.

Funding for the project was also provided by the George Washington Memorial Association and the Dimock Estate. Work commenced on the Auditorium in 1941; it was completed in 1943. It served as the focus of theatrical life in Washington prior to the opening of the Kennedy Center.

It is still used for performances today, and is the home of several companies, including Washington Concert Opera. The auditorium seats 1,490 people.[3]

The auditorium was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Desegregation controversy

On October 9, 1946 the theater declined entry to African-Americans, including the Dean of the Howard University Medical School. A leaflet and boycotting campaign ensued. The National Symphony Orchestra canceled performances.[4] In 1947, the Board of Trustees changed policy to admit African-Americans to sponsored events, but did not completely desegregate until 1954.


Outside of the Auditorium is the River Horse sculpture. In 1996 George Washington University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg presented this bronze statue of a hippopotamus as a gift to the University's Class of 2000. The auditorium contains a mural by Augustus Vincent Track, and the Dimock gallery is located on the lower Lisner Lounge.


  1. National Park Service (2009-03-13). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  2. "Lisner Auditorium". The GW and Foggy Bottom Historical Encyclopedia.
  3. "Lisner Auditorium Seating Chart" (PDF).
  4. "Lisner Auditorium segregation controversy, 1946". The GW and Foggy Bottom Historical Encyclopedia.
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