On May 5, 1891, Carnegie Hall opened its doors for the first time, Tchaikovsky ushering in a new standard for the presentation of live music and public events in New York City. Four decades later—almost to the day—on May 1, 1931, another of New York's most iconic landmarks—the Empire State Building—was officially opened and remained the world's tallest building until 1972.
In addition to being two quintessential New York locations, both buildings have much in common.
The skeletons of both buildings are comprised of steel forged in a Carnegie steel mill.
Using advances in steel engineering, both buildings rose remarkably quickly. From start to finish, Carnegie Hall took just 51 weeks to complete, while the Empire State Building was built in less than 59.
Both emerged into less than ideal circumstances. In 1891, Carnegie Hall was considered to have been built in the boondocks—"Hogtown"—three and a half miles north of 14th Street, the Midtown of the day. The Empire State Building was completed in the depths of the Great Depression. Just three years after the Hall opened, Andrew Carnegie ordered the construction of the Studio Towers atop the original building. He hoped the new spaces would generate rental income to meet the fledgling venue’s costs. Because of the Depression, the Empire State Building experienced low rental uptake, and would not turn a profit for two decades.
Both buildings, however, overcame challenges throughout their history to emerge as two of the most recognizable and successful symbols of New York City.
If you are in New York City on May 5, train your eyes on Midtown as one great New York institution celebrates another. On that night, the Empire State Building will be lit up in "Carnegie Hall red" to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the opening of Mr. Carnegie's Music Hall.
Carnegie Hall thanks the Empire State Building Company for the special lighting of the Empire State Building on May 5.
The Empire State Building
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Related: May 5, 120th Anniversary Gala