Historical Overview of the Bemis Auditorium
The auditorium, constructed in 1922 from the designs of the architect Andrew Hepburn, was to be the focal point of cultural life in the unincorporated model “company town” of Bemis, Tennessee. Bemis is now part of Jackson, Tennessee. The auditorium building itself is an elegant example of Beaux Arts design. The circumstances surrounding its construction are equally impressive; the auditorium alone would be an extraordinary building in any small town, it is not only that – it is part of the nationally significant collection of resources nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 as the Bemis Historic District. The original elements of the building exhibit consistently high quality, reflecting the remarkable commitment of its builders, the Bemis Brothers Bag company and its president. The construction of the auditorium in 1922 was in the third phase of building for the community; initial construction of the community (intended to be a model industrial community) began in 1900. In association with Arthur Shurcliff, Hepburn designed a complex of three buildings surrounding a small “Common” space. Of these four elements, only three were built: the auditorium, the Common itself, and the mill administration building. The fourth, a hotel, was never built.
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