A Brief History: Carnegie hall begins in the spring of 1887 aboard a ship traveling from New York to London. Newlyweds Andrew Carnegie (a powerful industrialist) and Louise Whitefield were on their way to Scotland to celebrate their honeymoon in the grooms Native Scotland. While onboard the ship, the couple ended up befriending the 25 year old Walter Damrosch, who was at the time the conductor and musical director of the Symphony Society of New York and the Oratorio Society of New York. Carnegie and his wife decided to invite Damrosch to their estate in Scotland. It was here that Damrosch shared his vision with Carnegie for a New Concert Hall in New York City. Carnegie expressed a great interest in the idea and decided to commit a portion of his great wealth to the new project. Thus, the idea of Carnegie hall was born.
Upon returning from his honeymoon, Carnegie set the plan in motion and worked with Damrosch to establish the Music Hall Company of New York. The Musical Hall was constructed on a parcel of land between 56th and 57th street by chief architect William Burnet Tuthill. The design of the music hall featured a rectangular six-story structure, housing three performance spaces: the Main Hall (renamed Isaac Stern Auditorium / Ronald O. Perelman Stage in 2006), seating 2,800; the Recital Hall located below the Main Hall, seating 1,200 (now the location of the 600-seat Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall); and, adjacent to the Main Hall, the 250-seat Chamber Music Hall (now Joan and Sanford I. Weill Recital Hall). Above the Chamber Music Hall were assembly rooms which, according to the program from the Main Hall’s Opening Night would be “suitable for lectures, readings, and receptions, as well as chapter and lodge rooms for secret organizations. “
As the cornerstone of Carnegie Hall was laid in place on May 19th 1890, Carnegie stated “It is built to stand for ages, and during these ages it is probable that this Hall will intertwine itself with the history of our country.” Ringing true to his beliefs, the Musical Hall was soon visited and used by some of the country’s most prominent political figures and intellectuals. From Woodrow Wilson to Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain and Booker T. Washington, the new musical hall hosted a countless number of important figures of the day. It wasn’t until 1894 that the Musical Hall was renamed Carnegie Hall in an attempt to bring in more business (at the same time in Europe a music hall often referred to vaudevilles). The Carnegie family owned the hall until 1925, when they sold it to developer Robert E. Simon. By the 1950’s the music business had changed dramatically, and Simon’s son was forced to sell. The New York Philharmonic could not purchase Carnegie Hall at the time because plans were already made to move to Lincoln Center. When a buyer could not be found, Simon sold it to a real estate developer who planned to demolish it and construct a business skyscraper on the site. The Hall was saved by action of the New York State Legislature, which allowed the city to purchase Carnegie Hall on May, 1960. Since then, a non-profit corporation has been responsible for managing Carnegie Hall. Isaac Stern was the first President of the Carnegie Hall Corporation, and remained so for many years. Today, Carnegie hall remains a National historic landmark in New York City, having hosted over 50,000 events since its opening night inception on May 5th, 1891.
Haunted History: Carnegie Hall is quite vague on it’s haunted history. Personal research through multiple resource outlets have not turned up any evidence or rumors of paranormal activity having occurred. One death is known to have occurred on stage in Carnegie hall in April 1951, but no activity has been documented as a result. Times Magazine reported the musicians death “In the clanging chords of the opening, he was in brilliant form. A few minutes later, he seemed to be bending close to the piano, listening. Then his left hand fell from the piano, his head almost touched the keys. A second later he rolled off the stool on the floor. It was a cerebral hemorrhage. Doctors were called to the stage, but Simon Barere was beyond aid; within ten minutes he was dead.” With this said, it is hard to conclude any evidence of the paranormal taking place within the walls of Carnegie Hall. Though with such a rich history behind it, one can see how the possibility exists.