Today, Madison Square Garden is known as “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” Home to the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers, the arena has been the site of historic sports matchups and legendary performances by some of the greatest artists of the last century. The Madison Square Garden we know today, however, is not the same venue that opened to the world in 1874.
In 1874, politician and performer P.T. Barnum converted a former rail station into an oval arena at East 26th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan, which he called the Great Roman Hippodrome. Barnum hosted the circuses for which he is now known, along with sporting events at the Hippodrome. When the building was sold to William Kissam Vanderbilt in 1891, it was renamed Madison Square Garden and given a full-scale makeover. After that building was demolished, in 1925, another Madison Square Garden was built on Eighth Avenue and 50th Street. It seated 18,000 people and was home to political conventions, boxing matches, and was where actress Marilyn Monroe famously sung Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy. After over 40 years of use, the old building was demolished, and the current Madison Square Garden was constructed on Eighth Avenue and 33rd Street in 1968.
Explore photos from all four iterations of the Garden, in #NYPLDigitalCollections.
P.T. Barnum's grand Roman Hippodrome—exterior view in 1874. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1691042
P.T. Barnum's grand Roman Hippodrome—interior view in 1874. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1691041
Madison Square Garden From Fourth Avenue, New York, N.Y. in 1892. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 805891
Beginning of demolition of Madison Square Garden in 1925. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 1691081
Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey Combined Circus in Madison Square Garden, New York City in 1932. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: 57517221
Madison Square Garden Center, 7th Ave and 33rd St in 1980. NYPL Digital Collections, Image ID: ps_lhg_149