Lincoln Center Honors The Lost Neighborhood Of San Juan Hill In Manhattan

September 11, 2022

Before there was Lincoln Center, there was San Juan Hill—once home to the largest Black community in NYC and later a sizable Puerto Rican population.

In the area around where Lincoln Center now resides. San Juan Hill was home to hugely significant artists and icons, including Arturo Schomburg, Thelonious Monk, and James P. Johnson, composer of the world-famous “Charleston”.

On October 8, 2022, the new David Geffen Hall will open with the world premiere of Etienne Charles’ San Juan Hill: A New York Story, a multimedia work that reconsiders the cultural and musical heritage of the lost San Juan Hill neighborhood.

A series of free artistic programs at the David Rubenstein Atrium and Weeksville Heritage Center examine this history leading up to the world premiere, entitled Sounds of San Juan Hill, starting September 22, 2022.

More info is below.

Calendar Listing

Sounds of San Juan Hill

The Jazz Legacy of San Juan Hill 

Thur, Sept 22 at 7:30 pm 

David Rubenstein Atrium 


Journey back to the dance halls and jazz clubs of San Juan Hill of the late 1800s and early 1900s with host Loren Schoenberg (saxophonist and senior scholar at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem) and special guest. Long before Harlem gained its rightful place as a center of African American cultural achievement, San Juan Hill was the home and a nurturing neighborhood for the creative spirits of many of jazz’s greatest artists. James P. Johnson, Benny Carter, and Thelonious Monk are just three of the legendary artists who lived and played there, and it was where West Side Story was set. Join us for an intriguing and interrogative look into many of the vital stories that intersect with this too long-forgotten community. 

Moving Memorials 

Wed, Sept 28 at 7:30 pm 

David Rubenstein Atrium 


Lincoln Center’s ongoing San Juan Hill project reconsiders the culture and heritage of New York’s lost San Juan Hill community. The Chilean-born, NYC-based visual artist María Verónica San Martín captures spirits of displacement and remembrance in her collage work, constructing complex multimedia sculptures evoking memory as a living entity that meaningfully takes up physical space and invites interaction. For this participatory workshop, San Martín will instruct attendees in her creative process, guiding them on the path to bring their own personal history and experience to bear in building a holistic, three-dimensional memory palace. All materials will be supplied on site and participants will be able to take their creation home at the end of the workshop. 

San Juan Hill Day; Connecting at the Seams 

Thu, Sept 29 at 7:30 pm 

David Rubenstein Atrium 


Once home to the largest Black community in New York City and later a significant Puerto Rican population, San Juan Hill was demolished between the 1940s and 1950s as part of the “urban renewal” plan that created the Lincoln Center campus and other major developments. While many families were displaced to other neighborhoods in New York City and beyond, a sizeable number of residents moved to the nearby Amsterdam Houses. This multi-part celebration of the inheritors of San Juan Hill’s history brings Amsterdam Houses’ elder residents to the Atrium to publicly build creative oral histories in collaboration with Sydnie L. Mosley Dances. Following an afternoon brainstorming session, SLMDances will perform these new works with emcee support from Lincoln Center’s inaugural poet-in-residence, Mahogany L. Browne. 

Presented in collaboration with Sydnie L. Mosley Dances 

DJ Logic 

Fri, Sept 30 at 7:30 pm 

David Rubenstein Atrium 


Bronx-born champion of the city’s musical memory, DJ Logic is a specialist in connecting the threads between NYC’s rock, jazz and rap traditions. He is currently collaborating with the trumpeter and composer Etienne Charles on a Lincoln Center-commissioned work inspired by the San Juan Hill story that will reopen the David Geffen Hall when it is premiered in October in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic. At this celebratory dance party, DJ Logic will continue tying art to location for a nonstop hip hop jam with selected music from New York artists only. Come out and dance to hits and deep cuts from emcees and DJs representing all five boroughs to the fullest! 

Is This Land Our Land? 

Sat, Oct 1 at Weeksville Heritage Center &

Mon, Oct 3 at 7:30 pm at David Rubenstein Atrium 


The Unanswered Questions is a conversation series presented in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic and John Jay College of Criminal Justice exploring complex social topics raised by the Orchestra’s programming. The series’ season begins with Is This Land Our Land? —a discussion on the history of the San Juan Hill and Weeksville neighborhoods, NYC communities of color that thrived with culture and tradition but were systematically dismantled, leaving behind a heritage of displacement and erasure that echoes to the present day. Weeksville Heritage Center‘s President Dr. Raymond Codrington moderates a conversation with SUNY Binghamton professor and scholar Dr. Jennifer Lynn Stoever, and Etienne Charles—the performer and composer whose Lincoln Center-commissioned work inspired by the San Juan Hill story will reopen David Geffen Hall when it is premiered in October in collaboration with the New York Philharmonic. 

Presented in collaboration with New York Philharmonic and John Jay College of Criminal Justice 

San Juan Hill: A New York Story

Saturday, October 08, 2022 at 2:00pm

Saturday, October 08, 2022 at 8:00pm

Co-presented by Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic

Commissioned by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts

Composed by Etienne Charles

Performed by Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, and the New York Philharmonic

The anticipated reopening of David Geffen Hall kicks off with a pair of concerts featuring Etienne Charles’ new work, San Juan Hill: A New York Story—performed by Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, and the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Music Director Jaap van Zweden.

An immersive multimedia work, San Juan Hill: A New York Story transports the audience via music, visuals, and original first-person accounts of the history of the San Juan Hill neighborhood and the indigenous and immigrant communities that populated the land in and around where Lincoln Center resides. A multitude of musical elements—from Ragtime, Jazz, Stride piano, Swing, Blues, Mambo, Paseo, Antillean Waltz, Calypso, Funk, Disco, and Hip Hop—are woven together with historical film and present-day interviews to showcase the myriad musical styles and culture that were brought to New York by migrants from the south and the Caribbean. In addition to his band, Etienne Charles & Creole Soul, Charles is working with a range of artists and academics on this commission, including special guests Carl Hancock Rux, Elena Pinderhughes, DJ Logic, and collaborating with playwright Eljon Wardally, video artist Maya Cozier, graffiti/visual artist Wicked GF (Gary Fritz), visual artist Bayete Ross Smith, and historian Julia Foulkes, among others.

San Juan Hill: A New York Story combines the past with the present, laying the foundation for our community to build a new future for Lincoln Center. In the leadup to the premiere, Charles, Lincoln Center, and the New York Philharmonic are partnering for a series of conversations and workshops that will explore the preservation and transformation of culture, gentrification, community activism, as well as resilience in resistance to adversity, in collaboration with Weeksville Heritage Center, National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and others.


Etienne Charles, Composer/Trumpet/Percussion

CREOLE SOUL: Sullivan Fortner, Piano; Ben Williams, Bass; John Davis, Drums; Alex Wintz, Guitar; Godwin Louis, Saxophone; Elena Pinderhughes, Flute; DJ Logic, Turntables

Creative Team

Maya Cozier, Film Director; Bayete Ross Smith, 3D Media Artist; Eljon Wardally, Narrative/ Playwright; Hollis King, Photography; Carl Hancock Rux, Spoken Word; Wicked GF (Gary Fritz), Grafitti Artist; Julia Foulkes, Historian

Production Team

Kathleen Felder, Producer; Billy Banks, Stage Manager.

Photo credit: San Juan, Wikipedia, 1956.

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