The amphitheater has been enriched with the history and culture here at the University of Mary Washington since it was first constructed in 1913. Under the watchful eye of faculty and students, the original amphitheater only consisted of a wooden structure as well as wooden benches. It wasn’t until the 1920s when the construction of a steel and concrete theatre, which was overseen by Fredericksburg City Manager Mr. L.J. Houston, was erected. In the years following, graduation commencement ceremonies and theatre productions took place at the amphitheater. The amphitheater was the fourth structure constructed at the college and was primarily used for entertainment purposes. The many additions were overseen by three university presidents, including; Edward H. Russell, Algernon B. Chandler Jr., and Morgan L. Combs.
Throughout the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, enrollment for the college was increasing, and since more people were attending the college, there needed to be an effort to expand the amphitheater. In 1934, work for the expansion began which mainly consisted of enlarging the stage on both sides as well as expanding the audience seating. At the end of these renovations, the total capacity of the amphitheater had increased to 1,600. By the 1950s, Greek Doric columns along with the pergola were built, which were the last objects to be added to the site. In 1955 the last commencement ceremony took place in the amphitheater. Due to unforeseen weather in 1956, the graduation ceremony was moved inside to Dodd Auditorium, which is where ceremonies for the following 10 years took place.
There is a high degree of material and design integrity from the 1953 expansion which is why this site is so historically significant. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the pergolas and concrete seating was removed. Most recently in 2011, the fallen cast stone columns were removed to prevent further injury and property damage. Lastly, in 2012, a summer storm caused two trees to collapse onto the stage of the amphitheater triggering the urge to restore it. In 2014, the university started a campaign to raise $3 million to restore, repair, and reconstruct the amphitheater. The goals of this restoration include; return the amphitheater to its historical glory, increase accessibility, upgrade infrastructure, enhance flexibility, add restroom facilities and sustain the park-like setting. Site preparation began in July of 2017 and is expected to be completed by June 2018.
“Amphitheatre Restoration.” University of Mary Washington. Accessed 25 September 2017. http://www.umw.edu/news/2017/05/25/umw-meets-challenge-amphitheatre-restoration/
“Amphitheatre to be Restored.” University of Mary Washington Magazine. 2014.
Spencer, Michael. “Amphitheatre.” University of Mary Washington Preservation Plan. Accessed 25 September 2017.