Aeolian Hall (Manhattan)

Aeolian Hall was a concert hall in midtown Manhattan in New York City, located on the third floor of 29-33 West 42nd Street (also 34 West 43rd Street, from the other side) across the street from Bryant Park. The Aeolian Building was built in 1912 for the Aeolian Company, which manufactured pianos.[1][2] Located on the site of the former Latting Tower, which during the 19th century was a popular observatory, the 18-story building contained the 1,100-seat Aeolian Hall.[3] The building stands next to the Grace Building.


Designed by the architects Whitney Warren and Charles Wetmore the building was completed in 1912 with its name referring to the Aeolian Company which manufactured pianos. It is 80 meters high and has 18 floors.[4] The concert hall, which could seat 1100 spectators, was on the third floor of the building. In the summer of 1922, the company sold the building to the department store Schulte Cigar Stores Company for over $5 million.[5]

The building continued to host concerts by the International Composers Guild up to January 1926, at least, when the appearance of African American Broadway performer Florence Mills, singing jazz-based pieces by William Grant Still, caused a minor sensation. Nadezhda Plevitskaya reportedly delighted the Aeolian Hall audience with her Russian folk songs in April 1926.[6]

The concert hall closed in May 1926, with a performance by violinist Leon Goldman.[7]

From 1961 to 1999, the building housed the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and today houses the State University of New York's College of Optometry.[8]


The New York Symphony Society performed concerts in both Aeolian Hall and Carnegie Hall, but moved in 1924 to the new Mecca Auditorium on 55th Street. In 1923 American contralto Edna Indermaur made her singing debut at Aeolian Hall.[9]

Aeolian Hall also featured concerts by leading musical figures such as Sergei Rachmaninoff, Josef Hofmann, Sergei Prokofiev, Ferruccio Busoni, Guiomar Novaes, Ignacy Jan Paderewski and Vladimir Rosing, as well as Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra; upon its return to the United States after several years in Europe, the Zoellner Quartet gave its first New York performance there on January 7, 1914.[10] The hall is most famous for a concert given by Whiteman's orchestra on February 12, 1924, titled "An Experiment in Modern Music".[11] Intended to be an educational demonstration on how far American music had progressed in recent decades and how jazz could be performed in the concert hall, the concert included a suite by Victor Herbert and closed with the Pomp and Circumstance marches by Edward Elgar. The concert is remembered, however, for the penultimate piece, the world premiere of George Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue with the composer at the piano, orchestrated by Whiteman's arranger Ferde Grofe.[8] This concert is today considered a defining event of the Jazz Age and the cultural history of New York City.


  1. "The Aeolian Company". Radio Museum. 1924-04-29. Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  2. "The Aeolian Building (Aeolian Hall), 33 West 42nd Street, ca. 1912". New York Historical Society - Digital Collections. Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  3. "Aeolian Hall Sold". Time Magazine. August 11, 1924. Retrieved September 5, 2009.
  4. "Aeolian Hall Opening". The New York Times. October 13, 1912.
  5. Kozenko, Lisa A. (2015-11-19). "Aeolian Hall, 1912-1927: "A building without precedent"". The Gotham Center for New York City History. Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  6. "Social News". The New York Times. April 3, 1926, page 14.
  7. "Thurber, James". "Swan Song". The New Yorker. May 27, 1927.
  8. "Our Mission, Values and History". SUNY College of Optometry. 2019. Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  9. Thorold, W.J.; Hornblow, A.; Maxwell, P.; Beach, S. (1923). "Edna Indermaur". Theatre Magazine. No. v. 37. Theatre Magazine Company. p. 36. Retrieved 2019-11-05.
  10. ”Zoellner Quartet Plays”. The New York Times. January 8, 1914.
  11. "The Whiteman Concert of 1924 Lives On". The New York Times. 1987-02-15. Retrieved 2019-11-05.

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