Simon J. Peabody, a successful businessman who called Daytona Beach home from 1907 until 1933, founded the original Peabody Auditorium. The original frame structure, a 2,200-seat auditorium, was constructed on property donated by Peabody in 1919. Sergei Rachmaninoff, Paderewski, and the John Philip Sousa Band were among the early performers in the theatre before it was destroyed by the largest fire on record in Volusia County, Florida.
In the fall of 1947 construction began on the new performing arts center with an emphasis on function and fireproofing. The rebuilt Peabody has double reinforced fire brick construction throughout, virtually guaranteeing that the fate of the first structure would never be repeated.
The new Peabody Auditorium, dedicated on October 6, 1949, remains Central Florida’s premiere performing arts center with renowned acoustics and 2,521 seats, all with a superb stage view. The U.S. Navy Band performed the inaugural show at the dedication ceremony. The Peabody originally seated 2,554, reduced through renovation to the current 2,521 seats. Not only was the Peabody Auditorium the largest indoor performing arts center, but one of the few in existence in Florida, making it the preeminent showplace for international and national artists as well as community and civic programs.
The Peabody is rich in entertainment history, having hosted performances by Frank Sinatra, Liberace, Red Skelton, Liza Minelli, Shirley MacLaine, Elvis Presley, Bob Newhart, B. B. King, Tony Bennett, James Taylor, Bill Cosby, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, Margo Fonteyn, Rudolf Nuryev, Tom Jones, Louie Armstrong, Jackie Mason, Itzhak Perlman, Gregory Peck, Simon & Garfunkel, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Jerry Seinfeld, Al Hirt, Sammy Davis Jr., Engelbert Humperdinck, David Copperfield, Michael Bolton, Johnny Cash and Dave Brubeck. Acclaimed Broadway musicals and touring productions have included Cats, A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, STOMP, Hair, Evita, Riverdance, The Producers, Chicago, Rent, Spamalot and many other Broadway hits.
The Peabody annually features touring Broadway shows, music and dance, concert artists, civic programs and competitions. The auditorium proudly served as the summer home to the London Symphony Orchestra for 40 years and has been home to the Daytona Beach Symphony Society for over 60 years. Situated in a historic beachside neighborhood, the Peabody Auditorium is a favorite venue for a host of returning performing artists and production companies.
Today, the Peabody's mission remains - to play a vital role in the arts in Central Florida, to provide diverse cultural activities accessible to all, and to improve the quality of life of our citizens by serving as a partner to social and economic development, rejuvenating neighborhoods, supporting local businesses, promoting education and voluntarism, and establishing and sustaining an inviting gathering place for citizens to celebrate a shared human and cultural experience.