The history of Setnor Auditorium and of Crouse College is ingrained in that of Syracuse University itself.
Built through the generosity of Syracuse businessman John Crouse as a memorial to his wife, Crouse College was intended to be used only as a women’s college. Designed by Archimedes Russell, it was built in the Romanesque Revival style with High Victorian Gothic qualities. The first cornerstone was laid in June 1888, and the building was completed in September 1889. It was officially named the John Crouse Memorial College for Women.
Crouse died before the building’s completion. After his death, the building was opened by his son to both men and women. It housed the first college of fine arts in the United States and was the third building on campus and highest structure in Syracuse when it was built. In 1974, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Music and the arts have always flourished in Crouse College and Setnor Auditorium. As the home of the Setnor School of Music, Crouse College is an active, dynamic building bustling with dedicated music students.
Crouse College's auditorium was originally intended as a chapel. It contains an intricate 70-foot beamed ceiling and a medieval church atmosphere. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the auditorium provided a space to hold concerts and recitals.
In 1998, thanks to a generous gift from Rose and Jules Setnor, the auditorium underwent a renovation that included replacing the seats with wooden chairs reminiscent of the originals, refinishing its hardwood floors, and cleaning the chandeliers and organ pipes. The music school and the auditorium were renamed for the Setnors.
Attending a concert in this beautiful wooden space, with sunlight illuminating the stained glass windows that line each side of the auditorium, is a transcendent experience, linking the room's atmosphere to the musical performance.
The auditorium's organ was a gift from John Crouse and was originally built by Frank Roosevelt in 1889. It was rebuilt by Estey Organ Co. of Vermont in 1924. In 1948, Arthur Poister joined the faculty of Syracuse University and sought to acquire new instruments by Walter Holtkamp of Cleveland, whose pioneering work led to the development of a new eclectic style of American organ that could handle a wide variety of 16th- to 20th-century repertoire. Holtkamp reused a substantial amount of pipework from the Roosevelt organ, giving this instrument even greater flexibility than most of Holtkamp’s original instruments, with warm foundation stops suited to the performance of Romantic music, alongside the clear, bright voice of the neo-Baroque ranks. The new organ was dedicated on November 13, 1950, and has 3,828 pipes and 20 chimes.