Friday, April 29, 2016

Castle Garden Opera House & more

Below is some information I found on Castle Garden Opera House. It's located in Battery Park, New York City, New York. The first image comes from The American Magazine ©1886. It ceased being an Opera House in 1855 and was the processing center for immigrants coming to America between 55-1890. Then it became an Aquarium from 1896 to 1841. Today's tidbit is about it's use as an Opera House and Immigration Center.

The garden had a fairly comfortable auditorium, where the summer heat was tempered by the sea breeze, but its stage was small, and the acoustic properties were poor; yet for several seasons it attracted fashionable audiences, and some of the best music ever heard in New-York was produced within its walls. In 1850, September 11, Jenny Lind made there her first memorable appearance before an American audience; there Parodi, Sontag, and Mario and Grisi sang, and there Jullien drew immense audiences to hear his famous orchestra. But its glory did not last long, for with the opening of the Academy of Music in Fourteenth street in 1854, music deserted it and moved with fashion northward.

Tour of the Harbor.—Emerging from either river into the harbor, the Battery and Governor's Island (see Military Affairs) are quickly left behind, and the massive commercial and office buildings at the lower end of the city group themselves into a magnificent mountain of stately architecture, supporting banners of sun-gilded steam and smoke, and bristling with gables, turrets and flagstaffs. Far above all tower the campanile of the Produce Exchange and Trinity's sacred spire. At the right, as you gaze stern-ward, the breadth of East River, the delicately arched line of the graceful suspension bridge and the looming heights of Brooklyn extend the picture grandly in that direction; while at the left are the broad level of the Hudson, and the tall elevators and green background of Jersey City, far enough away to take on an ideal beauty. The focal and foreground point of the splendid scene is the Battery—green with trees and lawns, marked by the quaint structure of Castle Garden, and fringed with white, where the gentle surf breaks against its curving sea-wall.
n 1847 Castle Garden began its career as a theatre, and here many of the greatest actors and singers of the last generation were seen and heard. The fort was remodeled inside, and shut in with a high roof. It was fitted up as luxuriously as any place of amusement in the country at that time. In August, 1847, the Havana Opera Company, the leading opera organization of the period, appeared there, and came again in 1850, many fine plays having been given in the interim. Then followed the wonderful introduction of Jenny Lind to the United States, under the management of P. T. Barnum, when seats were sold by auction for hundreds of dollars, and the town went wild over the Swedish diva.' In 1855 the dramatic manager's lease expired, and Castle Garden was leased to the State Board of Emigration to become an immigrant depot, and since then the name has become synonymous with its use. To this building all steerage passengers from Europe were brought in barges to make their landing; and every arrangement possible was made for their safety and welfare.while endeavoring to meet friends, preparing for a residence in the city or waiting to be forwarded to western destinations. Nearly ten millions of immigrants have passed through its halls and been placed upon the records. The United States has now taken the whole matter of immigration out of the hands of the State Board, has abandoned Castle Garden and is establishing a new depot on Ellis Island. What will be the future of the historic building is beyond conjecture at this writing.
The Battery park contains 21 acres, is shaded by large trees and provided with a broad walk along the sea-wall and with a great number of seats. There is no spot in the metropolis more cool and beautiful in warm weather than this, but for 35 years it has been almost entirely given up to the immigrants, lodging-house runners and other hangers-on at Castle Garden, whose presence has kept away all but the tenement-house population of the neighborhood, for no longer, as of yore, does any one of wealth or taste live near it. At its eastern end stands the Revenue Barge Office, a branch of the Custom House, surmounted by a tower 90 ft. high; and beyond that the group of ferries to Brooklyn known collectively as South Ferry. Anchored at the Battery is one of the free public baths which are provided at various suitable places along both river-banks.
Source: A Week In New York ©1893

This image is of when it was being used for Immigration.

On the water-front of the Battery is Castle Garden, a quaint-looking old building, which for years has been the chief gateway through which millions of self-exiled Europeans have made their entrance into the New World, and become acquainted with the metropolis of the Great Republic of the earth. Castle Garden is a circular brick structure, with a history of its own. It was originally erected under the title of Castle Clinton, as a fortress, in 1807 by the National Government, who gave it to the city in 1823; subsequently it was converted into a summer-garden and opera-house; hence its name Castle Garden. It has often been the scene of great civic "pomp and circumstance;" within its walls warriors and statesmen, now historic personages, were wont to be banqueted and have their glories fulminated; and within its gray interior the celebrated songsters of a past age discoursed sweet melody to the lovers of music. Here a great ball was held in 1824 in honor of the Marquis Lafayette; here, in 1832, President Andrew Jackson, and in 1843, President Tyler, were given popular receptions; and here, in later days, the grand voices of the late Jenny Lind, Sontag, Parodi, Mario, and of many another famous singer, were heard.
In 1855 it became the immigrant depot for the reception of incomers from Europe, and to here barges bring from the ocean steamships, as they arrive in the river, men, women, and children of all nations, in every variety of costume and of every tongue. Here the ethnologist may find for study groups of different types of mankind that he can nowhere else in the whole wide world meet with duplicates of. The last published records show that during the year ending December 31, 1886, 300,918 immigrants passed through Castle Garden. At one time the immigrants were the prey of sharpers, who, under pretence of taking a kindly and fatherly interest in them, fleeced them and left them destitute, for the public authorities to care and provide for. These scandals and abuses led to the appointment of a Board of Emigration Commissioners, to take charge of the immigrants when brought to Castle Garden. A register of all persons arriving here and of their intended destination was kept. Here they could be met by friends, have letters written, their money exchanged for American coin, be supplied with food at moderate prices, have their baggage weighed and checked, have medical attendance if sick, be forwarded by boat or rail to their destinations, or, if staying in the city, referred to boarding-house keepers, who are under the supervision of the Commissioners. Connected with the Garden is also a labor bureau.
Source: Illustrated New York ©1888

Here's a photo from 1906

Yesterday I posted a tidbit on another Opera House on Heroes, Heroines, and History. Check it out.

1 comment:

  1. It's so hard to imagine how people built these massive structures without the help of power tools.