The Big Red Box in the Sky that Wasn’t

Most New Yorkers today can’t imagine anything other than Carnegie Hall on the corner of 57th Street and Seventh Avenue.

Plans were afoot to replace Carnegie Hall with what you see in this Life Magazine article from 1957.

But in the heady days of the late 1950s, when sleek steel-and-glass skyscrapers were popping up throughout Manhattan at breakneck speed, the city’s real estate bigwigs saw the Hall as dowdy and drab, obsolete for a modern world capital.

Plans were afoot to replace Carnegie Hall with what you see in the illustration to the right, featured in a Life Magazine article from 1957.

It certainly would have been quite a sight: a gigantic, 44-story, red-and-gold checkered box, standing three stories above street level on pillars.

In a New York Times article, architect Ralph Pomerance, seemingly aware that his taste would come into question, defended his color choice as an attempt to “relieve the sameness of the Manhattan skyline.”

Needless to say, Pomerance’s aesthetic architectural pick-me-up didn’t happen.

In fact, it inspired a spirited defense of Carnegie Hall led by violinist Isaac Stern that not only saved the building but set the tone for what the organization is today.

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