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Ravinia Festival Association records

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Ravinia

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection consists mainly of public relations materials, including scrapbooks, newsclippings, historical summaries and recollections, publications files, and photographs. There is also in the collection season planning documentation for scattered years: contracts, correspondence, and reports relating to planning the repertoire and the hiring of guest artists for a particular season. The remainder of the collection includes a few founding documents and scattered files about Ravinia Park and the building and renovation of its facilities; some development and fundraising campaigns records; and some correspondence by and relating to Ravinia staff and trustees.


  • Creation: 1903-1993



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Ravinia Festival Association records are open for research; they are available five folders at a time in the Special Collections Reading Room (Priority II).

A few files containing personnel information are restricted until 2045; see series descriptions in the finding aid for details.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Ravinia Festival Association records are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

History of the Ravinia Festival Association

Summer music festival in Highland Park, Illinois.

Ravinia first opened on August 15, 1904, as an amusement park built solely for the purpose of increasing ridership on the Chicago & Milwaukee Electric Railroad. Ravinia Park included a pavilion, a baseball diamond and grandstand, an electric fountain, a theater, and a refectory building with dining rooms and dance floor. The open-air pavilion offered concerts by the New York Symphony Orchestra under Walter Damrosch, and dance performances by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Due to insufficient revenue, however, Ravinia Park slipped into receivership in 1910.

The next year, a group of North Shore residents purchased the park and founded The Ravinia Company in 1911. Ravinia became a summer venue for classical music, and opera was added to concert programs in 1912. These concerts and performances continued through 1931, when the Depression and decreasing revenues forced Ravinia to close its doors once again.

Four years later, in the spring of 1936, Highland Park and Chicago businessmen formed the not-for-profit Ravinia Festival Association, and on July 3, 1936, the Ravinia Festival opened its first season with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Ernst Ansermet), who have been in residency each summer ever since.

On May 14, 1949 the 1400-seat wooden Pavilion burned to the ground, but six weeks later the 14th Festival opened on schedule under a 33-ton canvas cover originally constructed for B-29 bombers. That summer Ravinia hosted the "Million Dollar Trio" of Jascha Heifetz, Artur Rubenstein and Gregor Piatigorsky. The three legendary musicians played under the canvas B-29 canopy. The replacement pavilion, which is still in use, was completed in 1950.

Seiji Ozawa was named Ravinia's first music director in 1964 and in 1968 the Festival appointed Edward Gordon as executive director. In 1971, James Levine became Ravinia's music director, a post he held until 1993.


10 Linear Feet (14 boxes, 3 oversize boxes, 4 volumes and 4 oversized folders)


Correspondence, photographs, reports, and publicity relating to the Ravinia Festival, a summer music festival held at Ravinia Park in Highland Park, Illinois, since 1904 (non-continuous).


The records are organized in the following series

Series 1: Reference materials, covering 1902-1984
Box 1
Series 2: Historic / Founding documents, 1903-1967
Box 1
Series 3: Season Planning, 1936-1983
Boxes 2-4
Series 4: Development / Fundraising, 1930-1976
Box 5
Series 5: Staff and Trustee matters, 1936-1969
Box 6
Series 6: Park and Facilities Management, 1909-1977
Box 6
Series 7: Public Relations, 1920-1993
Boxes 7-8, 4 volumes
Series 8: Ephemera, 1910-1976
Box 8
Series 9: Special Projects, 1960-1982
Box 9
Series 10: Photographs, approximately 1906-1985
Boxes 10-14
Series 11: Oversize items, approximately 1906-1982
Boxes 15-17, 4 oversize folders

Collection Stack Location

1 28 7, 1 43 12


Gift of Ravinia Festival Association, 1994.

Processed by

Alison Hinderliter, 2002

Inventory of the Ravinia Festival Association records, 1903-1993
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States