Traveling Tuesday: Madison Square Garden
Growing up in New Jersey, I often traveled into New York City with my family and on school trips to sightsee and attend events. One of the venues, I visited was Madison Square Garden and have many fond memories. While researching one of my books, I discovered that famed aviator Charles Lindbergh spoke at a rally at the Garden in 1941 and knew I had the kernel of an idea for another book. What I didn’t realize until I dug deeper is that there have actually been four Madison Square Gardens, and the one I visited is not the one where Lindbergh spoke.
Here’s a bit more about the famous facilities that bear the name:
The first Madison Square Garden was the former train depot of the New York and Harlem Railroad. Owned by Commodore Vanderbilt, the building remained vacant from 1871 to 1874 when it was leased to P.T. Barnum. He renovated to create an open oval arena with benches and seats. Named Great Roman Hippodrome, the facility was used for Barnum’s circus performances as well as other events. Subsequent lessees used it for flower, dog, and beauty shows, temperance meetings, concerts, revivals, and boxing matches. After Vanderbilt’s death in 1879, his nephew took back control and renamed the building Madison Square Garden.
Ten years later, he sold to a syndicate that included J.P Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and W.W. Astor who chose to demolish the building and have a new one designed by well-known architect Stanford White. With a minaret-like tower that rose thirty-two stories, the Garden was the city’s second tallest building. The main hall had permanent seating for 8,000 people and floor capacity for thousands more. In addition a “small” theatre held 1,200 and a concert hall 1,500. In addition, there was a restaurant and roof top cabaret. Unfortunately, the cost to build was nearly three million dollars, and never provided the success and financial gain anticipated, so it was torn down in 1925.
The third Madison Square Garden, the one in which Lindbergh spoke, was located between 49th and 50th street on 8th Avenue, and not located on Madison Square. Construction costs are estimated at just under five million dollars, and the facility was constructed in a little over eight months. Groundbreaking occurred on January 9, 1925. Seating was available on three levels with a capacity of 18,496 visitors. The facility hosted several noteworthy events:
- Although the Garden never hosted a national political convention, a rally was held to support Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s bid for president in 1932. In 1936, he delivered his last campaign speech before the election there.
- Five years later, in 1937, a Boycott Nazi Germany rally was held sponsored by the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee. New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was one of the speakers.
- In February 1939, the pro-Nazi organization German American Bund held a rally with 20,000 participants. The group was outlawed by the U.S. government by December 1941.
- On May 23, 1941, Charles Lindbergh spoke at the America First Committee rally.
Nearly thirty years later, the building was demolished after the current Garden was constructed at One Worldwide Plaza.
About Murder at Madison Square Garden:
The dream of a lifetime becomes a nightmare.
Photojournalist Theodora “Teddy” Schafer’s career has hit the skids thanks to rumors of plagiarism. With any luck, a photo spread with Charles Lindbergh at the America First Rally will salvage her reputation. After an attempted assassination of Lindbergh leaves another man dead, Teddy is left holding the gun. Literally. Can she prove her innocence before the police lock her up for a murder she didn’t commit?
Private Investigator Ric Bogart wants nothing to do with women after his wife cleaned out their bank account and left him for another man, but he can’t ignore the feeling he’s supposed to help the scrappy, female reporter who is arrested for murder at the America First rally. Can he believe her claims of innocence and find the real killer without letting Teddy steal his heart?
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