10 Historical Facts About the Upper West Side’s Lincoln Square and Columbus Circle

The Upper West Side of New York is rich in culture and history. Bordered by Central Park and neighbors with Columbus Circle, the Upper West Side is home to the famous Lincoln Square and steeped in fascinating New York City history. From its popular landmarks to the setting of major films, there are many reasons why residents are proud of living on the Upper West Side of New York.

The Theater District of Columbus Circle

In 1903, one of New York’s most historically significant theaters, the Majestic Theatre, opened in Columbus Circle. It soon became renowned as the first to showcase a musical production of The Wizard of Oz and many other famous musical productions. Wizard of Oz attracted a large crowd of theater enthusiasts, and the Majestic quickly gained popularity within the general public. Columbus Circle also grew from this popularity, and several restaurants and pubs opened up in the area shortly after the theater's success. To this day, this area offers many fun attractions and delicious eateries to grab the attention of theater patrons attending a show.

Columbus Circle — The Original Blueprint for Central Park

If you’re looking for another fun fact about New York’s history as a whole, Columbus Circle was part of the original plan for Central Park, which currently has the distinction of being the world’s most visited urban park. The circle itself was initially envisioned by the renowned landscape artist Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, who is known for being the designer of Central Park. These gentlemen had the vision to incorporate a grand circle at the 8th Avenue entrance to provide an open view of the park when people came to visit.

A Popular Filming Location

Columbus Circle just so happens to be a trendy spot for filmmakers as well. Spot Columbus Circle in several well-known films, including The Devil Wears Prada, I Am Legend, Tower Heist, Cloverfield, Taxi Driver, Eyes of Laura Mars, and even the family-favorite Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. In addition to these films, this area also appears in the movie Ghostbusters — it’s the setting of the famous scene where Stay Puft Marshmallow Man begins his trip towards 55 Central Park West.

The Introduction of Lincoln Center

Photo courtesy of Curbed NY
New York is one of the world's most important locations for theater, so it only makes sense that the city’s Lincoln Center is also the world’s leading performing arts center. As part of the "Lincoln Square Renewal Project” of 1955, a group of civic leaders joined forces with John D. Rockefeller III to design and construct a new performance space, which slowly grew to become the city's cultural hub. The Lincoln Center was named for Lincoln Square because of its prominent location on the Upper West Side.

Lincoln Square, Formerly Known as “San Juan Hill”

Lincoln Square was formerly known as San Juan Hill and bordered by West End Avenue, Amsterdam Avenue to the east, 59th Street to the south, and 65th Street to the north. “San Juan Hill” came from the 1898 Battle of San Juan Hill and the 10th Cavalry Division, who fought with Theodore Roosevelt.

Major Renovations

Lincoln Square has experienced significant renovations since the early 2000s. In 2006, Lincoln Center had a $1.4 billion renovation to freshen up the square’s appearance and bring modern amenities to the site. The blocks between West End Avenue and Amsterdam transformed from empty areas to the brand-new condo towers of 10 West End, the Adagio, and the Element. Recently, the city announced new development plans to add thousands of updated apartments and buildings to the area surrounding Lincoln Square.

The Monument to the U.S.S. Maine

Photo courtesy of Central Park Conservancy
On February 15, 1898, the U.S.S. Maine — built at the New York Naval Yard in Brooklyn — exploded and sank in Havana Harbor. The massive U.S.S. Maine National Monument was completed by architect Harold Van Buren Magonigle in 1912 and features a fountain and a tower topped by a bronze Columbia Triumphant and flying horses.

Columbus Circle is the Geographic Center of the City

This traffic circle is a central location of New York and is lined with many shops. It’s a relatively short walking distance from many of New York’s major attractions, including Rockefeller Center and Times Square. Columbus Circle is considered the city's major geographical center due to its proximity to major attractions, shopping, and high-end restaurants. Almost all official distances measured in New York were calculated from this point — for instance, if a website states that an outside location is 2,000 miles away from New York, it’s taking that specific measurement from the location at Columbus Circle.

The Grand Hotel of Columbus Circle

In the early 1900s, Columbus Circle overflowed with Victorian-style buildings, including the Pabst Grand Circle Hotel. In 1954, the New York Coliseum replaced the hotel, eventually demolished for its creation. The Coliseum was designed to be an exhibition hall and convention center, intended to host various events like the Fifth International Philatelic Exhibition and the New York International Auto Show. Eventually, the Time Warner Center replaced the Coliseum in 2000.

Both Lincoln Square and Columbus Circle have experienced incredible changes over the years, all of which have led to the success and growth of these areas today. Lincoln Square continues to thrive in innovation and culture, while Columbus Circle stands as a prominent part of history and the center of New York.

If you’re interested in apartments or condos for sale on the Upper West Side, contact Samantha Reiss and the West Side Advisory Team for an unparalleled real estate experience.

*Header photo courtesy of The Guardian

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