The Fillmore Auditorium was originally commissioned in 1910 by Emma Gates Butler and her two daughters. The hall was designed by James W. and Merritt Reid, popular San Francisco architects who designed the Fairmont Hotel, Embassy Theatre and other SF landmarks. It began as the Majestic Hall, an Italianate-style dance hall at the southwest corner of Fillmore and Geary Streets. Upon completion in 1912, it originally housed the Majestic Academy of Dancing. In addition to the dance academy, the hall hosted events such as Wednesday night socials and masquerade balls, among other entertainment of the day.
Through the 1930s, the Fillmore remained a dance hall (with catchy names like "The Get Acquainted Society" and "the Ambassador Dance Hall"); by the 1940s, it had become a roller rink. When local promoter Charles Sullivan came aboard in the 1950s, the Fillmore finally regained its place as a dance hall, featuring many of the biggest names in black music, including B.B. King, James Brown and Ike & Tina Turner.
On November 6th 1965, Bill Graham (born Wolfgang Grajonca on January 8, 1931, in Berlin, Germany) presented his first show at the Fillmore, an Appeal benefit for the San Francisco Mime Troupe (which he managed at the time). After a few more benefit shows (among them the legendary 1966 Trips Festival at Longshoreman's Hall), Bill's duties as Mime Troupe manager gradually gave way to his burgeoning career as a Rock & Roll concert promoter. Under Bill's direction, the Fillmore Auditorium featured virtually every major rock act of the 1960's, including: Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin), the Jefferson Airplane, Cream, Moby Grape, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, the Byrds, Eric Burdon & the Animals, the Buffalo Springfield, Steve Miller, Country Joe & the Fish, the Young Rascals, the Turtles, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Santana, the Butterfield Blues Band, Traffic, Otis Redding, Howlin' Wolf, Captain Beefheart, Muddy Waters, The Who, Frank Zappa & the Mothers, the Velvet Underground and MANY more.
When racial tensions in the neighborhood grew after the asassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, Bill moved his operations to the former Carousel Ballroom on Market Street and renamed it the Fillmore West.
While the Fillmore had been used intermittently by other promoters in the years after Bill's departure, it wasn't until 1988 that Bill and his (now very large) company, Bill Graham Presents re-established their relationship with the hall on a full time basis. Once Bill returned, it was almost as if he never left- along with the familiar apple barrell at the top of the stairs, a whole new poster series was initiated- which continues to this day.
The Fillmore closed after it was damaged in the October 1989 earthquake. Sadly, Bill Graham died in a helicopter accident near Vallejo, California, on October 25, 1991. After renovations, the Fillmore Auditorium finally reopened on April 27, 1994, with The Smashing Pumpkins, Ry Cooder & David Lindley and American Music Club. Currently booked by Live Nation, it continues to host a variety of concerts and events.