Washington Hall was built in 1881 (dedicated in 1882) to replace the Music Hall that burned in the fire of 1879 with Exhibition Hall. Topped by a spire, it echoes the architecture of the nearby Basilica and Main Building. Father Sorin named the building in honor of his great American hero, George Washington. In its early days, the first floor housed a barber shop, a Western Union office, and a recreation hall for billiards. The auditorium seated 700 people in chairs for assemblies, plays, concerts, and films. Well-known figures such as William Jennings Bryan, Joyce Kilmer, Will Rogers, Henry James, William Buckley, Art Buchwald, Phil Donahue, and Tim Russert have graced its stage. Today, the hall holds 564 people in modern auditorium-style seats, and student groups hold rehearsals and performances inside.