The rights to the site of Brooklyn College, initially occupied by Native Americans, were transferred to Dutch settlers in 1636 in exchange for one hundred guilders, two-and-one-half tons of beer, three long-barreled guns, and some ammunition. For the next three centuries, homesteaders and farmers occupied the land.
In 1924, Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus began to use the grounds for their annual visits to Brooklyn.
|By 1935, the college secured the property, and in October of that year construction of Brooklyn College began.|
Since the college served a large, urban and unusually heterogeneous student body, it was immediately obvious to the college administrators that the campus needed a grand assembly hall. During World War II, Brooklyn College’s President Harry D. Gideonse wrote a proposal to the City Planning Commission for auditorium funding. The building would contain two performance spaces: George Gershwin Theater, nicknamed “little theater” and Walt Whitman Hall. The landscaping of the property, followed construction, and by April 15th, 1953, the cornerstone was ceremoniously placed in position.
Opened on January 14, 1955, located on the eastern end of the campus, this building houses one of the largest performing spaces in Brooklyn.
|Brooklyn College’s President Harry D. Gideonse, center, at the Opening Night, Photo by C.E. McNamara|
The original color scheme was a variety of blue walls, an aqua-blue combination split-and-fly grand curtain and maroon seats and rug. The theatre has strong art-deco overtones, with broad curves and brushed aluminum railings. The impressive curved lighting soffits which arch across the entire ceiling width in widening rings, echo that most famous of theatres, Radio City Music Hall.
In the mid-eighties, the color design was redone to the current earth-tones....keeping the seat and rug maroon variations. The ceiling remained cream in both color schemes. The grand curtain or "main rag" as it is affectionately called by theatre folk, was also changed from a wine-red Austrian Puff (as seen in the above black and white photo) to the present rich, wine velvet curtain which was installed as part of the 2004 refurbishment project.
Both the Mezzanine and the Balcony were designed so that they can be curtained off for engagements that require a more intimate atmosphere.
Near the top of the picture above the proscenium, can be seen the grating that allowed the sound to be projected from the "speaker loft" into the theatre. These openings were eliminated with the refurbishment and speakers systems are now hung right and left of the proscenium. Also visible at the very top of the picture, are two of the three lighting coves -- cutouts in the ceiling where the lighting instruments are housed that light the front area of the orchestra pit and the stage.(1)
"Now understand me well--It is provided in the essence of things, that from any fruition of success, no matter what, shall come forth something to make a greater struggle necessary. " (From Whitman's "The Song of the Open Road")
Whitman Hall has recently undergone a five million dollar renovation.
Jerry performed here on
4/4/75 Legion Of Mary
2.)^First Modern Circus Is Staged, 1768-01-09, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-modern-circus-is-staged