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New York State Theater No. 1 - Ground Breaking Ceremony

On May 14th, 1959, the groundbreaking ceremony for the future Lincoln Center was held atop the leveled neighborhood of San Juan Hill. (For more information about the legacy of San Juan Hill please read here.)

Groundbreaking Ceremony - Photo by Bob Serating

“Off to one side, under a striped tent, Leonard Bernstein led the New York Philharmonic in the first of hundreds of performances that it will give from that spot when its hall is ready in 1961. [...] On a long dais, surrounded by men mighty in government and the arts, the President of the United States made a graceful speech, and there was drama in the thought that he was the first of many Presidents who will visit Lincoln Center." [1]

President Eisenhower breaks ground - Photo by Bob Serating

President Dwight D. Eisenhower: "Here in the heart of our greatest metropolitan center, men of vision are executing a redevelopment of purpose, utility, and taste. The beneficial influence of this great cultural adventure will not be limited to our borders. Here will occur a true interchange of the fruits of national cultures. From this will develop a growth that will spread to the corners of the earth, bringing with it the kind of human message that only individuals, not governments, can transmit. Here will develop a mighty influence for peace and understanding throughout the world."

"This was the real beauty of yesterday morning's occasion--the fact that a great vision suddenly took shape, a first audience was convened, a first performance given.” [1]

Video Source [2]

Video Source [3]

[1] New York Herald Tribune, May 15, 1964 via Lincoln Center: The Building of an Institution by Edgar B. Young 

[3] Video from Lincoln Center Archives, accessed via "The Lincoln Center Turns 50 and Prepares a Party." New York Times.

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