Where We Live: Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall houses the Oregon Symphony

The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. (Courtesy, Wiki Commons)
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. (Courtesy, Wiki Commons)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is the jewel of Portland’s Performing Arts Complex. It’s a cultural landmark in the heart of the city brought to life by one of Portland’s most prominent families.

Arlene and Harold Schnitzer (Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation)
Arlene and Harold Schnitzer (Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation)

Their story is a big part of where we live.

“When the symphony hall was named for my mother, on one hand we’re a little embarrassed about the name,” Jordan Schnitzer told KOIN 6 News. “On the other hand, I was certainly proud of what my parents had accomplished.”

Today, the concert hall named for Jordan’s mother — one of Portland’s preeminent patrons of the arts — houses the Oregon Symphony along with many other world-class performances that come through the city of roses.

Harold and Arlene Schnitzer were among Portland’s most generous philanthropists, donating an estimated $80 million to numerous civic projects.

The Schnitzer family came to prominence through their steel and scrap metal conglomerate, founded by Russian immigrant Sam Schnitzer in the early 1900’s.

The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. (Portland's Center for the Arts)
The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in downtown Portland. (Portland’s Center for the Arts)

Eventually, Harold broke away from his family’s business and made his own fortune in real estate.

When the former Paramount Theatre underwent a $10 million renovation in 1983, the project was a few million dollars short. But with Harold’s help, it would be completed.

“He said, ‘you bet I’ll help, but I’d like to have it named in honor of my wife because she’s done so much for the arts,'” Jordan said.

Today, the Oregon Symphony’s home is a national historic landmark, and Arlene Schnitzer still sees her name in lights.

Occasionally, the symphony leaves the confines of the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall for a big outdoor performance on the Portland Waterfront.

This year’s event is scheduled for September 3.

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