Madison Square Garden (1879)
|Madison Square Garden I|
|Full name||Madison Square Garden|
|Location||New York City, New York|
|Opened||May 30, 1879|
|Owner||William Kissam Vanderbilt|
|Operator||William Kissam Vanderbilt|
Madison Square Garden was an arena in New York City located at East 26th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. The first venue to use that name, it had a seating capacity of 10,000 spectators. It operated from 1879 to 1890, when it was replaced with a new building on the same site.
Before the Garden
The building that became Madison Square Garden was originally the New York and Harlem Railroad passenger depot before being leased to P. T. Barnum when the depot moved uptown in 1871. Barnum converted it into an oval arena 270 feet (82 m) long, with seats and benches in banks, that he called the "Great Roman Hippodrome", where he presented circuses and other performances. The roofless building, which was also called "Barnum's Monster Classical and Geological Hippodrome," was 420 feet (130 m) by 200 feet (61 m).
In 1876 the open-air arena was leased to band leader Patrick Gilmore, who renamed it "Gilmore's Garden" and presented flower shows, beauty contests, music concerts, temperance and revival meetings, and the first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, called at the time (1877) the "First Annual N.Y. Bench Show." Gilmore also presented boxing, but since competitive boxing matches were technically illegal at the time, he called them "exhibitions" or "illustrated lectures."
The next to lease the space was W. M. Tileston, who was an official of the dog show. He attempted to attract a more genteel crowd with tennis, a riding school and an ice carnival – the arena had one of the first indoor ice rinks in the United States.
A final renaming
After the death of Commodore Vanderbilt, who owned the site, his grandson William Kissam Vanderbilt took back control and announced the renaming of the arena to "Madison Square Garden" on May 31, 1879. Vanderbilt presented sporting events such as indoor track and field meets, a convention of Elks, the National Horse Show and more boxing, including some bouts featuring John L. Sullivan, who began a four-year series of exhibitions on July 1882, drawing over-capacity crowds. P.T. Barnum also used the Garden to exhibit Jumbo, the elephant he had bought from the London Zoo; he drew sufficient business to recover the $10,000 pricetag.
Another notable use of the first Garden was as a velodrome, an oval bicycle racing track with banked curves. At the time, bicycle racing was one of the biggest sports in the country. "Races testing speed and endurance drew huge crowds, with the top riders among the sports stars of their day. The bike races at Madison Square Garden were all the rage around the turn of the 20th century. A velodrome circuit flourished around the country, with the best racers earning $100,000 to $150,000 a year at a time when carpenters were lucky to make $5,000." Madison Square Garden was the most important bicycle racing track in the United States and the Olympic discipline known as the Madison is named after the original Garden.
Unfortunately, the roofless Garden was hot in the summertime and freezing in the wintertime. Vanderbilt eventually sold what Harper's Weekly called his "patched-up grumy, drafty combustible, old shell" to a syndicate that included J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, James Stillman and W. W. Astor, who closed it to build a new arena designed by noted architect Stanford White. Demolition began in July 1889, and the second Madison Square Garden, which cost more than a half-million dollars to build, opened on June 6, 1890. It was demolished in 1926, and the New York Life Building, designed by Cass Gilbert and completed in 1928, replaced it on the site.
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- Madison Square Garden (1890)
- Madison Square Garden (1925)
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