By Ross Warren
There is the famed Paris Opera House, London’s theater district of the West End, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, all focal points for arts and culture in Europe. None of them can hold a candle to New York’s Lincoln Center complex.
Covering some 16.3 acres of the most valuable real estate in the world, Lincoln Center houses 30 indoor and outdoor performance facilities that draw crowds in the millions; something the venerable Old World venues could only dream about.
Today the Center offers patrons a wide variety of activity. There is the Big Apple Circus and showings of the King and I. Students attend the Julliard School, a world famous academic center for dance, theater and most anything related to the performing arts.
The dream that would become Lincoln Center took root almost seven decades ago when a group of prominent New Yorkers began to plan what would become home to the most recognizable cultural center in the world.
John D. Rockefeller III headed up the group charged with planning and bringing to fruition the complex. Rockefeller is credited with raising more than half of the $184.5 million cost of construction. That’s in 1960 dollars. Translated to 2015, the cost of construction today would amount to $1,480,753,224... and 48 cents.
A renovation in 1998 cost slightly more than that.
Today Lincoln Center houses the world famous Metropolitan Opera. Its home is the David H. Koch Theater on the south side of Lincoln Center’s main plaza and has seating for 2,544 patrons of the arts.
Contrary to popular thought Lincoln Center is not named for President Abraham Lincoln. The area where it sits was once known as Lincoln Square. Who and why it was blessed with that name is something lost to history. Several theories abound, but none appears to have gained any traction with historians.
Lincoln Center opened piecemeal as each venue was completed. The first performance space was Philharmonic Hall that presented its first concert in 1962. That was followed by the New York State Theater, Vivian Beaumont Hall and more venues over the coming years.
Today there are seats for millions of visitors each year. Lincoln Center has also become a place to visit for local residents who enjoy the sloping green spaces adjacent to the Beaumont Hall. In warm weather it’s quite common to see people taking in the sun, relaxing or eating lunch. It’s also a gathering spot for Julliard students. Take notice... one of those youngsters you may see relaxing there will one day be a Broadway star, a ballet Prima Dona, or a world famous opera singer.