When Carnegie Hall almost met the wrecking ball

Imagine this at 57th Street and Seventh Avenue: a blood-red, 44-story skyscraper set back from the corner and surrounded by two sunken  plazas.

Sound gruesome? In the 1950s, such a building was proposed to replace Carnegie Hall, the city’s premier music hall and then the home of the New York Philharmonic.

Unfortunately, Carnegie Hall, funded by Andrew Carnegie and opened in 1891, was bleeding cash.

So developers offered to buy the site and raze the hall (above in a NYPL photo from around 1910). An architect’s rendering of the skyscraper ran in a 1957 issue of Life magazine, and a demolition date had been set for March 31, 1960.

“Although many wanted to save the Hall, and many committees to help rescue it were formed, it was only at the eleventh hour that the Committee to Save Carnegie Hall, headed by [violinist] Isaac Stern, was able to stop the impending demolition,” states carnegiehall.org.

[Young ballerinas holding court on West 57th Street, trying to raise funds]

The city purchased the hall for $5 million; a nonprofit organization, headed by Stern, was chartered to run day-to-day operations.

And entertainers from Lenny Bruce to the Beatles to Judy Garland were able to perform there, along with classical greats like Pavarotti and Yo-Yo Ma.

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4 Responses to “When Carnegie Hall almost met the wrecking ball”

  1. Josie Says:

    I remember this. RIP Isaac Stern. He was a great musician *and* a great man.

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