Town Hall is one of New York City’s iconic performance spaces for music, dance, comedy, politics and film.
Development Director Kathleen Germann and Assistant Director Haley Bierman gave us a riveting historical slide show, then took us on a breathtaking tour.
The original Town Hall was built by The League for Political Education, an organization born out of the women’s suffrage movement. Susan B. Anthony used the hall to speak on behalf of women’s right to vote. In 1920, the Constitution’s 19th Amendment granted American women that right.
In 1921, the Town Hall of today opened its doors at 123 West 43rd Street in Manhattan. Designed by renowned architects Mc Kim, Mead & White, there are no box seats and no obstructed views, inspiring the description “Not a bad seat in the house.”
In that same year, German Composer Richard Strauss gave a series of concerts that made Town Hall famous. During the 1920s and ‘30s, it became “the place” for performers to make a New York debut. Marian Anderson had her first NYC recital in 1935 when other venues rejected her because she was African-American. Margaret Sanger was arrested on stage for speaking about birth control!
In 1935, Town Hall began a radio program to promote the exchange of ideas. Within three years, it was carried by 78 stations with 2.5 million listeners. For this achievement, Town Hall was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2013.
When Kathleen and Haley showed us the amphitheater, we learned the red velvet seats are made out of horsehair – which is why the acoustics are perfect. The space is both elegant and intimate, even with 1500 seats.
Throughout this beguiling building, we saw posters of many Town Hall performers: from Isaac Stern, Billie Holiday and Bette Davis, to Pablo Casals, Bob Dylan and Robin Williams.
Town Hall continues to play a starring role in the culture, music and politics of New York City. The crème de la crème of performers have made it their home.
Free guided tours are available on certain mornings. Visit thetownhall.org or call 212-840-2824.