Breaking Ground

July 11th, 2016

The new Met opened at Lincoln Center in September 1966. But it took more than a decade to get to that memorable night. After the area around what is known as Lincoln Square was designated for renewal in 1955 and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts was incorporated the following year, ground was finally broken for construction to begin on May 14, 1959—by President Eisenhower himself. “Jovial and vigorous,” the New York Times reported, “the President shoveled up freshly softened dirt to break ground for the $75,000,000 music, opera, theatre and dance project at West Sixty-Fourth Street and Broadway.” (After that, the paper adds, “he shoveled four times more for photographers.”) Leonard Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic in Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, and many other luminaries from politics and the arts attended the ceremony. Seen here is the building site in February 1960.