In 2014, Carnegie Hall completed an impressive (though initially controversial) renovation to the tune of $230 million. This transformation converted the beloved artist studios, home to the likes of Bill Cunningham, Marlon Brando and Leonard Bernstein, into education facilities for Carnegie Hall. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to take a tour of the new rooftop garden, studios and offices with the Design Trust for Public Space. Carnegie Hall director of administration, Richard Malenka, took us through the history of the famed music hall, imparting many secrets and other gems of information we never knew about before. Here are 10 forgotten facts about Carnegie Hall:
Steel magnate Andrew Carnegie was one of America’s great Gilded Age millionaires (equivalent to being a multi-billionaire today). Carnegie Hall runs as a non-profit today, but when Carnegie’s wife and conductor Walter Damrosch petitioned him to build a concert hall to rival those in Europe, he formed a for-profit music hall company. This decision has had a direct impact on the architecture of Carnegie Hall that survives today, and here’s why.
The original hall had a red tile mansard roof, and the building looked quite different (and shorter) than the hall today. Its acoustics were considered a technological marvel, and the architect William Tuthill, who trained in the office of Richard Morris Hunt, was also an amateur cellist. But despite critical acclaim, Carnegie Hall lost money in its first season in 1891, prompting Carnegie to think of more revenue streams for the building.
By 1894, the mansard roof was removed and two floors inserted for double height loft studios that could be rented, bringing in additional income for the music hall. In addition, a new 12-story building on 56th Street was built. The new additions are shown in the 1895 photograph:
Photograph from the Museum of the City of New York
These additional space were still not enough to cover the operating deficit so in 1896, a new tower was built along 57th Street above the building. Tuthill protested these design changes, feeling his Italianate palazzo masterpiece was being gradually compromised of its proportions, so Carnegie promptly hired the more renown architect, Henry Hardenbergh (who designed the Plaza Hotel and the Dakota apartments) to do the new additions, which were designed to more closely match the Italianate style.
Photograph from Museum of the City of New York