The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium — Neighborhood Showcase

The Long, Rich History of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

The history of the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium begins long before the heyday of its legendary namesake. Built in 1915, the building was part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, which sought to showcase San Francisco’s triumphant comeback from the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and fire. The auditorium takes its current identity from iconic rock impresario Bill Graham, one of the pioneers of the rock and roll scene that exploded in San Francisco in the 1960s and 1970s.

Originally named the San Francisco Civic Auditorium, this historic event venue has been the site of plenty of culturally important events over the last century, including a speech from Martin Luther King, Jr. to the NAACP in 1956, the Democratic National Convention in 1920, and teachings given by the Dalai Lama in 2007. 

This cultural center was also the site of a speech given by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 on the 100th Anniversary of the founding of the Republican party. The building was the home of the San Francisco Opera from 1923 to 1932 and again in 1996.

Designed by renowned architects John W. Reid, Jr., Frederick Herman Meyer, and John Galen Howard, this famous cultural center was the home of the Golden State Warriors from 1964 to 1966. It was also the location of two campaign speeches by President Barack Obama, one in 2007 and another in 2012.

Past Events at The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium 

The Civic Auditorium saw some of the biggest names in the entertainment business booked at the venue, especially during the tenure of one of its former managers, James T. Graham (no relation to Bill Graham). 

Who were some names that graced playbills at the Auditorium?

  • Elvis Presley 
  • Judy Garland
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Tijuana Brass
  • Ray Charles
  • The Mamas and the Papas
  • Gladys Knight & the Pips
  • The Temptations
  • José Feliciano
  • Bobby Darin

The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium has also hosted the San Francisco Roller Derby, Holiday on Ice and the Ice Capades, the Barnum & Bailey Circus, Golden Gloves boxing matches, the International Dog Show, the Folderol, and the Black and White Ball, among many other historic and noteworthy past events and gatherings.

Notable Recent Performances at the Auditorium

Today the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is maintained by Another Planet Entertainment and is the site of hundreds of special events and concerts each year. Located right in the center of Civic Center Plaza, the Auditorium is the site of some of the most highly anticipated events, concerts, and performances in the Bay Area. 

Some of the performers that have been hosted by the Auditorium include:

  • Bette Midler
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • The Grateful Dead
  • Elton John
  • Swedish House Mafia
  • Janet Jackson
  • Bob Dylan
  • Phish
  • Lady Gaga
  • Bruno Mars
  • Lauryn Hill
  • Adam Sandler

Other notable performances have also been given at the Auditorium by Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Tool, and Chance the Rapper.

An Idyllic Location in the Heart of San Francisco

This cultural center has a capacity of 8,500 people and is considered one of the area’s premier multi-purpose arenas. As such, there are dozens of meetings, gatherings, conferences, and summits related to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium that require an elite venue. 

Thanks to its central location just three blocks from the Auditorium, that venue is The Hibernia, a historic, tech-forward private event space that is the location for many of those gatherings.

To learn more about The Hibernia, visit the official website.

© 2022 Hibernia San Francisco