Among the most recent acquisitions at Carnegie Hall's Archives is an original photograph of Carnegie Hall taken by F. E. Parshley sometime before May 5, 1891‹the Hall's official opening day. What is interesting here is that this is the only known image of the original five-story brick building (far right in photo) that stood at the 56th Street corner, where the 881 Seventh Avenue entrance to Carnegie Hall's administrative offices is located today.
Stories have circulated about the identity of this building and why Andrew Carnegie was unable to purchase this property when planning the construction of Carnegie Hall. According to one amusing story, a brewery was located on the site, and the owners refused to sell it to Andrew Carnegie because a clean water spring, which purportedly ran underneath the building, was an essential element in the brewing of their beer. Recent research has disproved this story.
Although the quality of the photograph is poor and the sign over the doorway still proves indecipherable, a recently found 1892 article in the New York Times describes the building as "a tenement house with a saloon on the ground floor." And it was that very year that Andrew Carnegie was finally able to purchase the building and then demolish it to make way for the tower addition.
Archivist and Museum Director, Carnegie Hall
Visit the Rose Museum to find out more about Carnegie Hall's rich and diverse history. Find fascinating mementos from that history in the Shop at Carnegie Hall; call 212-903-9610 for more information.
Photos: Carnegie Hall Archives.