Top ten NYC landmark openings: Brooklyn Bridge, Studio 54 and more
We’ve rounded up the best opening nights (and days) of landmarks throughout New York City’s history.
Thu Oct 24 2013
This week, we brought you the coolest spots opening up in NYC (not to mention places that you can visit now, and projects we’re looking forward to way down the road). To toast that package, we found our favorite landmark openings from the late 1800s to today.
1. May 24, 1883: Brooklyn Bridge
Governor Grover Cleveland presided over this structure’s debut, which boasted a fireworks display, 150,000 screaming Gothamites and impressively mustachioed President Chester A. Arthur. Unfortunately, tragedy followed the joyous occasion: A week later, 12 people were trampled to death when a panic-inducing rumor spread that the span was collapsing.
2. May 5, 1891: Carnegie Hall
The iconic music venue kicked off with a five-night festival of concerts. Powerhouse composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Walter Damrosch headlined the first evening, attracting a sold-out crowd to the then-undeveloped neighborhood many dubbed “Upper Manhattan.”
3. December 20, 1912: Cort Theatre
One of Broadway’s oldest houses, the Cort features Thomas Lamb’s Versailles-inspired architecture and opened with a successful production of J. Hartley Manners’s comedy Peg o’ My Heart. Starring stage-and-silent-film actor Laurette Taylor, the show ran for 600-plus performances.
4. May 1, 1931: Empire State Building
In fittingly dramatic fashion, President Herbert Hoover pushed a button in Washington, D.C., to light up the tallest building on earth. (The ESB held that title until the construction of the World Trade Center’s North Tower in the early ’70s.) It was later revealed that the President’s push was merely symbolic: An unknown person flicked the actual switch on-site.
5. October 1, 1931: The Waldorf-Astoria
After the original edifice was demolished to make room for the big building discussed in No. 4, this luxury Art Deco establishment was erected on Park Avenue. While both owners, the Astor cousins, died before its planning and completion (John Jacob Astor was a passenger on the Titanic), President Hoover still used the opening as a way to raise Depression-era spirits, honoring what was then the world’s largest hotel with a radio broadcast.
6. April 30, 1939: 1939 World’s Fair
This balmy Sunday was planned to patriotically coincide with the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s presidential inauguration. At the Flushing Meadows fairground—transformed from what had been a swamp and city dump—President Franklin Roosevelt’s opening address was one of the first live TV broadcasts in the States.
7. March 8, 1968: Fillmore East
Talk about a diverse lineup. The short-lived East Village venue’s first show—organized by owner and famed concert promoter Bill Graham—included blues guitarist Albert King, envelope-pushing folkie Tim Buckley and some chick named Janis Joplin.
8. April 26, 1977: Studio 54
If you were around for the premiere of this fabulous disco joint, you probably couldn’t get in. (If you somehow pulled that off, though, we’d sure as hell like to hear about it.) Due to a successful PR campaign, the guest list included the likes of Cher, Brooke Shields, and Donald and Ivana Trump, who danced beneath mirrored walls, spinning lights and a man-in-the-moon sculpture.
9. September 11, 2011: National September 11 Memorial
Ten years after 9/11, these reflecting pools and surrounding park opened for the first time to families of the victims. President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush spoke at the ceremony, and the names of those who died were read aloud. The site opened to the public the following day.
10. September 28, 2012: Barclays Center
Jay Z unveiled this big rusty spaceship with eight sold-out concerts and many sentimental comments about his home borough. The night wasn’t all heartwarming video montages about BK’s history and smiley “Empire State of Mind” sing-alongs, however. Outside the arena, dozens of protesters criticized the controversial development.
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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)