It was late Friday morning. Standing on the steps in the hallway our guide Elliot took us back in time to the beginning of Carnegie Hall. When the area between 56th and 57th on 7th Avenue was not a very good neighbourhood. Immigrants let their animals walk around freely in between the horses and carriages on unpaved streets. It was a shady place, so far uptown that it was considered suburban. Until Andrew Carnegie, a selfmade millionair originally from Scotland - his life makes a true rags to riches story, on his honeymoon meets the conductor of his wife's singing group and decides to build a Music Hall in New York.
We were hanging onto Elliot's lips and could just picture what it must have looked like on opening night in 1891 when horse-drawn carriages lined up for a quarter-mile outside, choking the streets. And when the Whitneys, the Rockefellers and the Fricks (to name a few) paid around $2 to listen to the performances directed by Tchaikovsky while showing off their gorgeous gowns and dazzling jewelry.
Elliot has been coming to Carnegie Hall for some 60 years. Somewhat gloomingly he said "In the old days people used to dress up if they came to Carnegie Hall but nowadays anything goes. I even see beachwear sometimes".
We really enjoyed the whole tour that lasted over an hour. For a great deal thanks to Elliot who so vividly described the history and the juicy details of Andrew Carnegie's life. And ofcourse also because....well....we were in New York City's Carnegie Hall. One of the greatest and grandest music venues in the world. Thank god that it was not sold to a developer in the 1950's who wanted to tear it down to build a skyscraper.
Carnegie Hall is located at 57th/7th. Tours are offered daily from October through late June and cost $ 15 (discounts are available for senior citizens and children). The public walk-in tours are offered 4 times a day on weekdays, twice on Saturdays and once on Sundays. However, tours are subject to the Hall's performance and rehearsal schedule. Take a look at www.carnegiehall.org for more information about the tours and the upcoming and ongoing events.