Nearly 100 Years Old, The Aud Remains an Entertainment Hub in Eureka Springs
Its official name is the Eureka Springs City Auditorium, but you can call it The Aud. We do. It’s rare for a town with a population of around 2,000 to have a city-owned performing arts hall with a capacity of 1,000. Bottom line: In Eureka Springs — with its vibrant arts and culture scene and nearly 750,000 annual visitors — having a cool, historic entertainment venue is a must, and The Aud more than fits the bill.
The Aud is a beautiful, four-story limestone building on Main Street just south of Basin Spring Park. Its performance space — with a floor level and balcony — is comfortable but not ostentatious. The sightlines are terrific, and so are the acoustics.
The Aud is a regular tour stop for bands coming through Northwest Arkansas, as well as a spot where local musicians and other performers can show off their talents. A roll call of legendary artists has played The Aud over its nearly 100-year history — among them Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Ray Charles, Merle Haggard, Levon Helm, Emmy Lou Harris, John Prine, Judy Collins, and Little Feat.
The Aud was built at a pivotal time in Eureka Springs history. In 1928, then-mayor Claude A. Fuller, working to move the city into a new era, thought a civic auditorium would be an ideal addition to the downtown landscape.
He entrusted the project to prominent architect A.O. Clarke, who designed an extravagant structure. All told, construction cost $90,000 (about $ 1.5 million in today’s money). Weeks before the stock market crash of 1929, Eureka Springs’ shiny new state-of-the-art venue opened.
The first show was a doozy. On a warm September night in 1929, the Eureka Springs City Auditorium hosted its first concert; Composer/conductor John Philip Sousa, the “American March King,” who brought along a 67-piece band to perform catchy patriotic numbers like “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “The Washington Post March” (both of which you’d undoubtedly recognize).
The Auditorium quickly became the center of the community, hosting high school basketball games, Saturday night dances, concerts, plays, opera and more. In the early 2000s, the basement gym was briefly converted into a roller rink.
The Aud remains a cultural hub of Eureka Springs. Visitors attending a performance should make time for pre- or post-show dinner and drinks. Within walking distance of the venue are Main Street Cafe (directly across the street), Mud Street Cafe, The Spring on Main, and Local Flavor Cafe. For an after-show cocktail, the hip hangout Missy’s White Rabbit Lounge is just a short walk north. For more live music — and dancing — Chelsea’s Corner Cafe is just a quarter mile to the north.
The Aud is a non-smoking facility and guests are not allowed to bring in alcoholic beverages. Before shows and during intermissions, the venue sells beer and wine, which can be brought into the auditorium.
See you there!