Carnegie Hall in foreground with office tower behind it New York Architecture Images- Midtown

Carnegie Hall


William B. Tuthill with Richard Morris Hunt and Dankmar Adler as consultants (hall); Henry J Hardenbergh (tower additions 1894); James Stewart Polshek & Partners (hall renovation); Cesar Pelli & Associates (tower)


156 W57, at Seventh Ave. 


Erected: 1891 (hall); 1986 (hall renovation); 1990 (tower)


Renaissance Revival






  Rendering copyright Simon Fieldhouse. Click here for a Simon Fieldhouse gallery.


[thanks to Medieval NewYork
Carnegie Hall
By Timothy B. Stevens

The Italianate Facade of Carnegie Hall

Background Information
Carnegie Hall is a concert hall located in New York City at Seventh Avenue and Fifty Seventh street. Carnegie Hall opened in 1891 and is still used today. Over the last century many world renowned artists have performed there including Peter Tchaikovsky, Igor Stravinsky, and Maurice Ravel and George Gershwin. The Hall is one of the most famous concert halls in the world. The acoustic sounds are impeccable and the architecture is extravagant.

After the Civil War the United States of America became transfixed with music. New Yorkers were no exception. They got swept up in the craze like everyone else. But there was a problem in New York. The city did not possess a suitable concert hall. Being one of the most important cities in the world, New York needed a top notch place to play and listen to music. The city also needed a place to serve as a cultural center. Carnegie Hall fulfilled both of these needs.

Andrew Carnegie was one of the richest men at this time. He enjoyed music just like everyone else. Carnegie agreed that that New York City needed a concert Hall and decided to give money for this purpose. He proposed this to the city administrators, they approved of it and was in the works. Construction began on May 13, 1890. Carnegie Hall was constructed over a span of seven years.

The chief architect was William Burnet Tuthill. He was very interested in the acoustics of the buildings. The sound quality in the hall is first-rate. Tuthill chose the style for the building from the Italian Renaissance. It is reminiscent of the Victorian age because it is so elegant. The interior of Carnegie Hall is beautiful. It contains marble in its foyer with great slanting arches in the ceiling and the doors. In the corners of the foyer there are columns with intricate carvings. This is apparent inside and outside of the building. The exterior is comprised of bricks which give the building a reddish hue. Both the inside and outside had the look of sophistication. It attracted the richest people and socially elite.

The internal elegance of the Hall

This building was constructed a few years before the steel era which led to the construction of the sky scrapers that crowd the New York sky line today. The method of building this hall was strange because it is made up of three buildings. There is the main hall which the show was actually performed. The second building, also known as the "lateral" building, contained studios, the recital hall and the chapter room, which was meant to be the meeting place for different organizations. The third building is more confusing than the other two. It is in between the other two buildings.

In 1894, the building was extended to seventh avenue from fifty-sixth street. and in 1896, the roof came off and a studio floor was added on, while a ten story tower was constructed on the lateral building. This extra construction made the building difficult to navigate. Tuthill built Carnegie Hall so solidly that it was meant to stand all of time.

The First Performer
The first performer at Carnegie Hall was a pianist named Franz Rummel. He was a well known artist. He was just an average performer with indifferent talents. The ironic thing about this was that he did not perform on opening. He played one month before opening night in the basement hall.

Opening Night Scares

The Hall on Opening Night, May 5, 1891

Opening Night was really on May 5. 1891. The performer was not a no-name piano player. He was and is still one of the greatest composer in the history of the world. The performer was Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The concert hall was jammed full of New Yorkers. Tuthill was worried about this he did not believe that the steal columns could withhold the mass weight of all of the people. He left during the performance so he could examine the blueprints of the building. Carnegie Hall remained standing that night and is still standing today. It is still one of the most important structures in all of New York.

The impressive brickwork


Schickel, Richard., The World of Carnegie Hall. (New York: Julian Messner, Inc, 1960)


"In the spring of 1887, Walter Damrosch set sail from New York City to his native Germany for a summer of study with the renowned conductor Hans von Bulow. It was a busman's holiday of sorts for the twenty-five-year-old musician, who in the two years since the death of his father, Leopold Damrosch, founder of the Oratorio Society and the New York Symphony, had become known to music lovers in New York as the baton-wielding figure at the Metropolitan Opera House. Little did the young conductor guess that the summer was also to be the prelude to his father's fondest dream: a great concert hall for New York City.
"As fortune would have it, Andrew Carnegie, czar of America's steel industry, was also aboard the steam packer, bound for Perth, Scotland, with his bride to enjoy an extended honeymoon....Soon into the voyage, the two men were introduced. Having served on the board of the Oratorio Society, Carnegie was well acquainted with the elder Damrosch's lifelong efforts to bring music to the masses, and he commended Walter for having chosen to follow in his father's footsteps....More than once during their discussions, Damrosch suggested to Carnegie that he build the concert house New York lacked....In 1889, Andrew Carnegie presented the city of New York with a $2-million gift, still on paper, called Music Hall. The site purchased by the philanthropist for the concert house (renamed Carnegie Hall in 1898) was located on Seventh Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street, near a stretch of vacant lots, coal yards, and scattered rowhouses. Only the Osborne, a gracious apartment house built a few years earlier and situated catty-corner from the concert hall to be, foretold the elegant future that Carnegie's 'tone temple' would bring to Fifty-seventh Street....The architect retained to design Music Hall was William B. Tuthill, a thirty-four-year-old New Yorker who in all likelihood won the important commission by virtue of his reputation as a gifted musician and a fine singer - which, in 1889, far outstripped his reputation as an architect."

Rebecca Read Shanor  "The City That Never Was," published in 1988 by Penguin Books.