Journey Into Carnegie Hall’s Off Stage Parts and Secret Tunnels

carnegie hall
Carnegie Hall is widely known as one of the most renowned music venues. Beginning with a concert with Tchaikovsky at its opening night in 1891, it has played host to famous musicians and composers from classical music, and many other genres throughout the past century.

The hall has seen over 5,000 performances from the New York Philharmonic, and appearances by legendary figures like Ella Fitzgerald and the Beatles. Here is a recording of part of Leonard Bernstein’s conducting debut with the New York Philharmonic in 1943, marking the beginning of his impressive career their.

But now, an interesting article published by Atlas Obscura uncovers some of the lesser known parts of this remarkable building, discovering that there are many fascinating things to see off stage. It introduces us to Gino Francesconi, an former artist’s attendant who stumbled across an historic collection of concert programmes underneath an air vent going back decades. They ended up there because ushers cleaning up after shows would throw the discarded programmes in to the vent rather than carry them downstairs to be disposed of. This stroke of luck led to the creation of the venue’s Rose Museum.

carnegie hall rose museum by luke spencer
The Rose Museum, located on the second floor of Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall at 154 West 57th Street, is a small museum dedicated to the history of Carnegie Hall (Photo: Luke Spencer/

The article takes a look at some of the museum’s remarkable artefacts, including a book kept by a long-time employee at Carnegie Hall which every performer signed before they left.

louis salter autograph book luke spencer
The Louis Salter Collection—a 54-page autograph book that dates from 1916 to 1937 (Photo: Luke Spencer/Atlasobscura/com)

There’s also the original booking ledger where you can see how bookings used to be made, a collection of batons used by conductors, and programmes reaching all the way back to 1891. You also get a bit of a tour around some of the building’s lesser known parts including some secret tunnels underneath.

original booking ledgers
Carnegie Hall’s original booking ledgers (Photo: Luke Spencer/
original plans of carnegie hall
The original plans for Carnegie Hall, showing the rafters and tunnels (Photo: Luke Spencer/
under carnegie hall
Deep under Carnegie Hall, the original bedrock of Manhattan (Photo: Luke Spencer/
carnegie hall tunnel
A tunnel directly below the 7th Avenue sidewalk (Photo: Luke Spencer/

If you’re interested in finding out more, the Carnegie Hall website has a history section which includes some digital archives and information about significant events over the years.

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