It all began in 1874, when John Heyl Vincent, a Methodist minister, and Lewis Miller, an industrialist, set up a training center for Sunday-school teachers here. The Chautauqua Institution rapidly grew into a summer-long cultural encampment. More than 2,000 events take place here in summer, including lectures, art exhibitions, outdoor symphonies, theater, dance performances, opera, and open-enrollment classes.
The village has small winding streets lined with gas lights and beautiful Victorian houses, which are often outfitted in bright colors, turrets, multiple gables, and gingerbread trim. The Miller Bell Tower is the most recognizable landmark on the lakeshore and has become the symbol of the institution; tunes are played three or four times a day, and the Miller Bell is rung manually 15 minutes before amphitheater lectures and evening programs.
Seats for the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and other large events held at the 6,500-seat Chautauqua Amphitheater
are on a first-come, first-served basis. Musicians as diverse as Peter, Paul, and Mary; 10,000 Maniacs; Glenn Miller; and Natalie Cole have performed in the theater, which has a roof and houses an enormous pipe organ. Norton Memorial Hall, a 1,365-seat art-deco building, is where the Chautauqua Opera Company presents four English-language operas each season.
The institution's recreational activities complement its cultural opportunities. You may fish, swim, play tennis, golf, or rent sailboats, motorboats, or canoes from the concessions on the lake. The village, a National Historic District, also includes B&Bs, hotels, inns, guesthouses, apartments, and condominiums, as well as several restaurants and eateries. You may use a car when dropping off and picking up your luggage, but otherwise car usage is extremely limited here. Lots near the entrance gates offer daily and long-term paid parking. A free shuttle bus and tram travel through the campus during the season. Narrated bus tours of the grounds are available.