Saturday, March 6, 2010

☞ REMEMBER: West Harlem's Lewisohn Stadium



We weren't around to remember the wonderful neoclassical stadium that stood in Hamilton Heights for nearly half of the 20th Century. Lewisohn Stadium was built in 1915 for City College and the landmark would be enjoyed by West Harlem citizens until its demise in 1973. As a gift from philanthropist Adolf Lewisohn, the stadium between 136th and 138th Street on Amsterdam Avenue held sporting events, concerts and theater performances. With the City College's expansion, the stadium was demolished to make way for the $125 million monolithic North Academic Center with its citadel-like aesthetics. The closest subway to this location is the 1 train at 137th Street. Check out an old postcard of the stadium on Ephemeral New York: LINK. Archival photos courtesy NYPL.

8 comments:

  1. The summer Jazz Concerts at the stadium were the best. You had to bring a pillow to sit on because those stone steps you sat on was hard on your backside.
    The Summer Concerts moved to Forest Hill Tennis Club when they tore the stadium down.

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  2. Thanks Sankofa. We wish we could have been there to see it.

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  3. What a tragedy. This seems similar to the Penn Station razing that produced a similar hideous new structure.

    We really should learn to protect and maintain the older architecture. There are buildings right now in Harlem which are meeting a similar fate because owners or the city are letting them rot and ruin.

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  4. It is truly outrageous. The pictures of the Stadium, magnificent as it appears, don't do it justice. And what acoustics it had. I attended three concerts there in 1959 and 1960. You could hear Ella Fitzgerald from way back in the top tier as if you were in the front row.

    It would seem that some demolition company and some builder/architect (if "architect" is the right word for whoever designed the dreck that now occupies the Stadium's space) were given a very big plum. Someone said "we should learn to protect" such treasures. It wasn't "we" who destroyed it, so I guess we have to fight to protect them.

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  5. I've been dredging around in my memory for the name of this venue for several years now, and it finally popped up in my head yesterday misspelled as Lewison Stadium (Close enough for government work). I'm sixty-five years old and remember, as if in a dream, attending a classical music concert (it might have been a performance of Franck's Symphony in D) when I was about 14 or 15. I do remember the stone tiers stretching far into the distance towards the staging area. The acoustics, as someone has mentioned, were world-class. The destruction of this magnificent venue reminds me of the callous destruction of Penn Station.

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    1. Btw, I entered City College at ripe old age of 26, and had no idea this venue, remembered as if in a dream, had once been part of the City College complex.

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  6. I lived a few blocks away on 134th St. and me and my baseball friends would climb a fence for some twilight baseball, Lewisohn by far was the best field around. We would get 3-4 innings in when security would show up.:)

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  7. I'm now 62, and we lived right across the street at 490 West 136th Street (also no longer there) in the 1950s. I'd go back every once in a while, and it still breaks my heart that this amazing Greco-Roman amphitheater was torn down to make room for the ugliest buildings. We'd go up to the roof and I remember watching Satchmo Louis Armstrong. How could someone come up with idea to destroy this is beyond comprehension. Perhaps it wouldn't happen today. So sad.

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