On October 24, 1864, physician and dress reform activist Mary Edwards Walker spoke at a local Democratic Party rally held at Doolittle Hall, an auditorium in the mixed-use Doolittle Block. It was one of the first occasions on which any major-party convocation was addressed by a woman.
On January 23, 1885, famed freethought orator Robert Green Ingersoll delivered one of his controversial lectures on religion, "Orthodoxy," at the same site. The auditorium was by then known as the Academy of Music.
The Building and Site. The boxy, mixed-use building stood just north of the Market House, the surviving structure known today as Old City Hall. It was built at an unknown date by Oswego businessman and developer Sylvester Doolittle (1800–1881), who erected a number of commercial structures in the Lake Ontario port city. The building was a nondescript wharfside affair. The auditorium, originally named Doolittle Hall, occupied the upper floor. The ground floor housed a produce wholesaler, a ship's chandler, and other businesses.
In 1875, the building was extensively renovated and reopened as the Academy of Music. The auditorium, renamed Academy of Music Hall, operated for eighteen years. It closed when the building was condemned on December 24, 1892. Demolition followed.
The Richardson Theatre, a state-of-the-art facility by the standards of the time, opened on the Academy of Music site in January 1895. In 1904, the property was purchased and demolished so that railroad tracks that ran down the center of Water Street could be rerouted. (This must have been a very high-priority project to justify buying and razing a theater not even ten years old.) The tracks were removed in the late 1960s or early 1970s, and the site became the municipal parking lot that it is today. Thanks to historian Mark Slosek for research assistance.