Shepard Hall, CCNY
The Gothic cathedral style of the crown jewel of City College of New York has earned it a nickname in some quarters: “Hogwarts on the Hudson”. But additionally, it benefits from the starkest contrast of any building in the city thanks to its façade of Manhattan schist, the native bedrock of the island, trimmed with glazed white terra cotta. Restored in the 1980’s after structural errors compromised much of its glory, this exquisite castle on a hill, overlooking Harlem, looks perfectly appropriate for a learning institution that boasts more Nobel laureates and more Fortune 500 CEO’s than any other public university in the nation.
National Museum of Immigration
Although Boring & Tilton may be the single most unfortunate name for a firm in the history of architecture, their masterpiece of Moorish and Beaux Arts styling is neither. Arguably the single most historically significant spot in the entire U.S., where 12 million people came through to become Americans for the first time, the main building of the immigration processing center now admirably showcases exhibits that study and celebrate our ancestors’ journeys. In the late 1980’s, a monumental restoration project (famously led by Lee Iacocca, himself the son of immigrants) brought the once decrepit and derelict center back to its former glory. Today, one in every four Americans can trace at least one grandparent to this spot.
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On December 9, 1867, Charles Dickens made the first of 22 appearances at Steinway Hall to read from his own work. He had come to New York 25 years earlier and was exceptionally well received. Though he had left the city in shock and sadness at the squalor of such neighborhoods as the Five Points, his return engagement provided him with such a hero’s welcome that he was soon enamored of New Yorkers’ better nature. By the time he completed his sold-out and highly lauded reading series, he vowed not to speak ill of the city or the country again.
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On December 7, 1842, under the baton of founder Ureli Corelli Hill, the Philharmonic Society of New York gave its inaugural concert, opening with Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Though two other philharmonics had appeared on American soil beforehand, Hill’s company lasted and grew, eventually becoming the New York Philharmonic. Today, it is the oldest symphony orchestra in the US and the most prolific in the world, having given over 14,000 performances either at home or on tour. The debut took place in front of an audience of 600 at the Apollo Rooms on Broadway, south of Canal Street in what would later become Chinatown. Today, the Philharmonic’s home is David Geffen Hall, one of the crown jewels of Lincoln Center.
On December 6, 1732, in a converted warehouse belonging to former acting governor Rip Van Dam, the city’s first playhouse gave its first professional performance. Opening as The New Theater at the corner of Pearl Street and Maiden Lane, the playhouse’s premier production was of The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar. Lead actor Thomas Heady had been a former barber to Governor Van Dam.