The recent debate over what should become of the current Penn Station and Madison Square Garden might make it difficult for some to imagine the “World’s Most Famous Arena” existing somewhere else, but the venue has a history of moving around. In fact, the current arena is actually the fourth Madison Square Garden to exist.
Photo via Library of Congress
P.T. Barnum’s “Great Roman Hippodrome”. Image from New York Public Library.
The first arena to bear the name was located right by Madison Square Park and became a reality with the help of P.T. Barnum who first made it his “Great Roman Hippodrome.” After being leased and passed along a few more times, the arena finally became Madison Square Garden in 1879 under William Kissam Vanderbilt but the building (which had no roof) was eventually demolished in 1889.
The next incarnation was designed by architect Stanford White in Moorish style and opened in 1890, becoming the second tallest building in the city. White, who had an apartment in the building, was later murdered during a show in 1906 for his affair with actress Evelyn Nesbit by her husband Henry Kendall Thaw in an event that would be sensationalized by the press. Despite its grand structure and cost, the Garden was once again demolished in 1925.
Madison Square Garden II. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
The third Madison Square Garden took the arena away from Madison Square Park and opened in 1925 as a simpler looking structure, designed by Thomas W. Lamb. The venue, located at 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets, had problems from the start, as many seats had obstructed views. It was again closed in 1968, making way for the fourth (and so far, final) Madison Square Garden, designed by Charles Luckman. The construction was arguably the most controversial as the arena replaced the original Penn Station, which had been designed by McKim, Mead & White, in 1968. The two sites have been linked since as debates regarding them continue.
The Garden as we know it has come along way. See how it once looked in these photos of its first three incarnations.