On October 24, 1864, physician and future 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 convention 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 now 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's auditorium was originally named Doolittle Hall.
The building was a nondescript wharfside affair. The auditorium occupied the upper floor; the ground floor housed a produce wholesaler, a ship's chandler, and other businesses.
In 1875, the auditorium was extensively renovated and reopened as the Academy of Music. It operated for eighteen years, closing 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. 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.