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Old New York in Postcards #3 – A Tale of Three Buildings: Franconi’s Hippodrome, The Fifth Avenue Hotel & The Fifth Avenue Building

A Tale of Three Buildings: Franconi’s Hippodrome, The Fifth Avenue Hotel & The Fifth Avenue Building a.k.a. The Toy Center

The west side of Fifth Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets had been country land well into the middle of the 19th century. The land for many years had been occupied by a quaint tavern and horse changing station.

Franconi’s Hippodrome- Fifth Avenue 23rd -24th Streets (click to enlarge)

On this site in March 1853, Henri Franconi, a European from a long line of equestrian performers, arranged with investors to have an amphitheater built which was then called Franconi’s Hippodrome. This precursor of the modern day circus with performers, animals and chariot races was housed in a large structure shaped like an ellipse and was 338  feet by 196 1/2 feet that could seat 10,000 people and was covered by a red, white and blue canvas supported by a center pole 70 feet in height and a circle of smaller poles 40 feet in height.

It opened on Monday, May 2, 1853, and The New York Daily Times was not impressed with the class of people attending the Hippodrome shows. Attendees they said “…were blacklegs, gamblers, rowdies, and the miscellanea of polite roguery and blackguardism.”  The reporter added “The Hippodrome is badly conducted and Continue reading