San Juan Hill becomes Lincoln Center

By Dave Caplan.

Long before Robert Moses’s program of urban renewal in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the area that we know today around Lincoln Center was called San Juan Hill. In the late 19th and early 20th Century it was home to thousands of working-class and poor African-Americans. The areas name supposedly came from an all African-American Cavalry unit that fought at the battle of San Juan Hill during the Spanish American War.

San Juan Hill was the largest African-American community in NYC prior to Harlem in Manhattan and Bedford –Stuyvesant in Brooklyn. Lined with tenements like the Lower East Side, the neighborhood had a vibrant jazz culture, but also rippled with racial tension.

Photo of San Juan Hill after the demolition
Photo of San Juan Hill after the demolition

San Juan Hill was also the backdrop for one of NYC’s most beloved musicals West Side Story. Competing gangs the Sharks and Jets danced and sang through what was left of the neighborhood in the mid 1950’s.

With John D. Rockefeller providing the initiative, Lincoln Center was built as part of the “Lincoln Square Renewal Project.” He is credited with raising over ½ the necessary 185 million dollars needed for the project. Eventually, San Juan Hill was razed to the ground and over the next 30 years Lincoln Center would become the cultural hub of NYC. World class architects were commissioned to create the 3 main buildings. Avery Fisher Hall (formerly Philharmonic Hall) was opened in 1962. The David H. Koch Theater (formerly New York State Theater) opened in 1964 and the world renowned Metropolitan Opera House opened in 1966. There are over 30 indoor and outdoor venues at Lincoln Center, so if you like opera, ballet, symphony music or any kind of performing arts Lincoln Center is the place to be.

Last week’s trivia answer-Floyd Bennett Field

Last week’s mystery photo-Edgar Allan Poe.

This week’s trivia question-Where is Strawberry Fields?

Mystery Photo
This week’s mystery photo

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