The Civic Auditorium was built in The Dalles in 1921. Upon completion the Civic was dedicated as a memorial to the local Veterans of World War I.
During its heyday, it was the venue for local cultural, entertainment, ceremonial, social, and recreational events ranging from concerts and theatricals to high school graduation ceremonies.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, it was operated by the city Parks & Recreation Department, which held indoor recreational activities and “sock hops,” referred to as “Rec Dances,” in its gymnasium for local youth. Toward the end of that era, the facility had largely fallen into disuse, the auditorium proper having been turned into a professional wrestling arena. It was ultimately condemned for safety reasons.
By the 1970s some initiatives were already beginning to be proposed to the city for its rehabilitation and reopening, but because of budgetary pressures, worsened by local economic conditions, none of these gained approval.
By 1991, after over 20 years of disuse, the city decided it needed to be relieved of the burden of maintaining a derelict property, and demolition was scheduled. This, despite the building’s status as a historical landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The same year, a group of concerned citizens formed the non-profit corporation which raised the funds to purchase the property from the city, and undertook the project privately.
Today, the Civic Auditorium Historic Preservation Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit charity, is responsible for raising funds and overseeing the Civic’s well-being.