The Doric-colonnaded amphitheater was built between Amsterdam and Convent Avenues, from 136th to 138th Streets, in 1915, with a capacity of 8,000. Financier and philanthropist Adolph Lewisohn donated the money for construction. The stadium hosted many athletic, musical, and theatrical events and was one of New York’s public landmarks. It was demolished in 1973 to make way for the $125 million North Academic Center.
The CCNY football team played its home games at Lewisohn from 1921–1950; the final game played was a 33–6 Beavers victory over Lowell Textile on November 18, 1950, in front of 300 fans. (It was CCNY’s only win that season, and the program was discontinued the following year.)
Besides sporting events, the stadium was used for performances by Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic (sometimes called the “Stadium Symphony Orchestra”), Kirsten Flagstad, Marian Anderson, and Eugene Ormandy. Leopold Stokowski made a series of recordings for Everest with the “Stadium Symphony Orchestra of New York.” George Gershwin played his Rhapsody in Blue. Performers ranged from Van Cliburn, Jascha Heifetz, and Yehudi Menuhin to Leontyne Price, Pete Seeger, Thomas Hayward (tenor), Harry Belafonte, Jack Benny, and conductor Kurt Adler of the Metropolitan Opera. Due to declining attendances, the concerts were discontinued in 1966.
The stadium was used by City College for its commencement exercises; all CCNY campuses took part, including Liberal Arts, Engineering and Architecture, and its Manhattan Business School (now Baruch College); this continued through June 1973. It was also used for CCNY’s annual Army ROTC’s reviews at the end of each academic year. Along with Jasper Oval (right across Convent Avenue, also now demolished), Lewisohn was used throughout the academic year for many of the college’s uptown campus outdoor intramural sports. There were some small rooms in it that were used for Math tutoring (from a person who tutored there in 1972.)
The derelict stadium was used in the 1973 film Serpico, directed by Sidney Lumet, in a scene with Tony Roberts and Al Pacino. It also appeared as the setting of the final scene of the 1945 film Rhapsody In Blue in which Oscar Levant performs the title composition, with an orchestra conducted by Paul Whiteman, as a memorial to the composer.
Here’s the video:
Demolished in 1973.
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