Thursday Trivia: Lincoln Center

Lincoln Center, New York. June 7, 2007.

Lincoln Center is beautiful. (Image via Wikipedia.)

Lincoln Center, the downright amazing performing arts center and my favorite place in New York, is of course named after the neighborhood in which it lies, Lincoln Square. But who is Lincoln Square named after?

Oddly enough, no one knows. The neighborhood gained the name in 1906 – possibly after Abraham Lincoln, possibly not – but to that point there were no property owners with the name Lincoln. It’s possible that the area used to be named Lincoln Farms – though nothing is conclusive or even concrete to that end, either – and, to make matters more interesting, in 1906 the mayor of New York was George B. McClellan – son of the elder George B. McClellan, the twice-fired, glacially moving general during the Civil War and Lincoln’s presidential opponent in 1864. Basically, Lincoln Center may be named after the greatest president ever, or just some guy.

Four more facts about Lincoln Center after the jump!

  • Of the three buildings on the main plaza, Avery Fisher Hall opened first (at that point as Philharmonic Hall), in 1962; the former New York State Theater in 1964; and the Metropolitan Opera House in 1966. Composer John Adams (who I met during my Nixon in China internship – nice guy, soft-spoken) once called the Met “nothing short of an acoustical miracle,” adding,

Why the Met is blessed with such excellent sound and its two neighbors, the New York Philharmonic’s Avery Fisher Hall and the David H. Koch Theater (home to the New York City Ballet and City Opera) have only fair to middling acoustics is a mystery. I recently heard a Philharmonic concert in Avery Fisher and was reminded of how drab the sound was there. This is a scandal, because the New York Philharmonic is one of the world’s great orchestras, and its musicians deserve to perform in a space that does justice to their playing. I have not heard the recently improved David H. Koch Theater across the Lincoln Center Plaza, but in the past years when I conducted in the pit (for the NYC Ballet) or listened from the audience, the sound was dead on arrival.

  • The Vivian Beaumont Theater (part of the Lincoln Center Theater building on the Amsterdam Avenue side of the complex) is the only Broadway-class theater under Broadway League regulations not near Times Square. This allows it to be eligible for its productions to win Tony Awards – like its production of War Horse, which won best play this year.
  • The New York Public Library’s Performing Arts research library, which moved to Lincoln Center from the main building in 1965, is one of the two research libraries in the NYPL system to have a circulating collection – the other is the Science, Industry and Business Library on 34th and Madison – a collection that dates back to the 58th Street Library in 1920.
  • The newest part of the Lincoln Center complex isn’t even on the campus – Jazz at Lincoln Center, whose three theaters are located inside the Time Warner Center in Columbus Circle, opened in 2004.

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