7. Madison Square Garden I, II and III
Madison Square Garden has been the prime venue in New York City for concerts, conventions, a plethora of sporting events, and spectacles. In addition to being the oldest and most active major sporting organization in the New York metropolitan area, Madison Square Garden is the fourth-busiest music arena in the world in terms of ticket sales.
And yet, the current version of Madison Square Garden, which is situated between 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 33rd street, is the fourth venue to be bestowed the name. The first two venues were located just northeast of Madison Square. The first venue was originally built by P.T. Barnum, and known as the Great Roman Hippodrome. William K. Vanderbilt purchased the venue and turned it into Madison Square Garden. It operated from 1879 to 1890 with a capacity of 10,000. While the stadium was used for sporting events, the roofless venue was often blistering hot in the summer and frigid cold in the winter.
The building was demolished and replaced by a new version designed by famed architect Stanford White, which opened in 1890 and was used until 1925. However, the second Garden was also ultimately deemed financially unsuccessful, and the New York Life Insurance Company, which held the mortgage on it, decided to demolish the building in 1925 replacing it with the New York Life Building designed by Cass Gilbert.
The ground-breaking of the third Madison Square Garden, designed by the prominent theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, took place on January 9, 1925. The new venue was used from 1926 until 1961, during the course of which it hosted numerous sporting events, including boxing, basketball, hockey, wrestling and cycling, and Marilyn Monroe’s birthday song to John F. Kennedy. The venue was demolished in 1968, after the current venue was opened.
The present-day Madison Square Garden was built in after Irving M. Felt purchased the air rights from Pennsylvania Railroad and demolished the original Pennsylvania Station—a majestic edifice similar to Grand Central Terminal. The Garden was funded by its core moneymakers: the three-ring circus, Rangers hockey, and Knicks basketball. Over the course of the years the Garden, which boasts the slogan, “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” in addition to hosting its regular sporting events, and concerts for the world’s most famous artists, has been used for various other purposes, such as graduation ceremonies, occasional music award shows, and more.
Still, there is a strong possibility that Madison Square Garden may move again – depending on political will. In 2013, the organization was limited to a 10 year lease at the site, as discussions to improve Penn Station started to take hold.