Naumburg Bandshell, Central Park (Thursday Doors)

—he still longed for
her smile, touch–
he thought it
lost, but it surfaced, wistful,
as a song of love

Long a musical fixture in Central Park, the Naumburg Bandshell was the site of John Lennon’s eulogy in 1980.

We were much much younger then…

In 1904 philanthropist Elkan Naumburg began funding free symphonic concerts in Central Park with picnics and waltzing under the stars. They were so popular that the crowds grew too large for the space; the original cast iron pagoda bandshell was razed, the grounds were paved over, and Naumburg’s nephew, William, designed a new limestone bandshell. It was completed in 1923, with 10,000 attending the symphonic dedication.

Presented to the City of New York and its Music Lovers

I was wandering around the park recently (actually on my way to an appointment on the East Side, but I got distracted) when I found myself in front of the bandshell. It looked forlorn without any performers on this grey windy day. A few other people stopped to take photos then went on their way.

The Bandshell has a rich history, including performances by Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, and the Grateful Dead, as well as numerous orchestral and operatic groups. Martin Luther King Jr and Fidel Castro both gave speeches here. It was nearly razed in 1992 after years of vandalism and neglect, but preservationists, spearheaded by Naumburg’s grandson, won a court battle to save it. Renovation was delayed by the city until 2003, when the Central Park Conservancy raised funds to restore it.

Summerstage began its free concerts here in 1986. Because the park was considered so unsafe at that time, the concerts were only given during the day. The large crowds resulting from its popularity caused it to relocate to Rumsey Playfield in 1990, where it remains. Sun Ra and his Arkestra and Ladysmith Black Mambazo were two of the original acts that performed.

My John Lennon-inspired shadorma is for Merril’s prompt at dVerse, where she has given us a selection of English rose names to use in our verse. I chose Julia’s Kiss. John said when he wrote his song he was thinking not only of his mother, Julia, but his wife, Yoko. Love is complex.

You can read more about the Naumburg Bandshell here and the gathering for John Lennon here. I unknowingly lived for a couple years right down the street from John and Yoko in the Village, before they moved into the Dakota, and once saw John in the subway, running to catch a train uptown.

And, as always, there are always more doors to see on Thursday Doors. Visit host Dan Antion here.

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About memadtwo

For more madness, follow me on Instagram @h_zimel methodtwomadness is a blog of two friends, Nina and Kerfe kblog is Kerfe's solo branch on the tree

38 responses to “Naumburg Bandshell, Central Park (Thursday Doors)”

  1. merrildsmith says :

    Lovely–poetry, music, history–Beatles and bandshells. Thanks for participating in my prompt.

    Bandshell is a strange word, isn’t it? 😏

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sun Hesper Jansen says :

    That’s a great story to have of John; not a legend, just a guy running for the subway like any other New Yorker. I’m glad they preserved this bandshell with all its history. Wild to imagine Sun Ra and the Arkestra there!


  3. Dan Antion says :

    Thank you for sharing the photos and facts about this structure. I have seen it many times, but never up close. I liked the story you shared about seeing John running for a train.We don’t think of people like him being in ordinary situations. That must be a nice memory.


  4. Ingrid says :

    A fascinating history, Kerfe, and thank you for including the footage of John Lennon’s vigil. I found that very moving!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. boundlessblessingsblog says :

    Thanks a lot for sharing this wonderful post and also about the beetles. Awesome, Marta.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Emille says :

    This music fixture is beautiful. it reminds me on the one in Balboa park in San Diego, where we in the summer sometimes listened to concerts. Ah, old and wonderful times:):) Emille

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) says :

    I love the sense of longing in your poem

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Manja Maksimovič says :

    Were you there at the 1980 Memorial? 🙂 Are you in the footage? I find the structure beautiful. And you saw John!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. robertawrites235681907 says :

    Hi Kerfe, a most interesting band stand and history. Thank you for sharing this song. I do know it but I haven’t thought of it for ages. Your poem is also excellent as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sherry Marr says :

    Such a moving post – especially the vigil for John Lennon. Some of his songs still bring me to tears – the more so because of how he lived – and died. Sigh. Glad I didnt miss this.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. msjadeli says :

    I’ve missed reading your posts. What a beautiful band shell, stairway, etc. I always wonder what happens to the old originals they take away. I would imagine the cast iron one would be a nice feature on someone’s estate, but they never say… We used to have all granite stairs leading up to our downtown library. A few years ago they decided to make it wheelchair accessible, took all of the granite away and replaced it with concrete…

    Liked by 1 person

  12. purplepeninportland says :

    Thank you for all these wonderful photos and memories. It was a different world then.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. paeansunplugged says :

    What a lovely verse and what a piece of history! Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. D. Wallace Peach says :

    Thanks for the photos and history of the band shell, Kerfe. It looks a little forlorn to me. Is it no longer used? That would be a shame. Building like to be loved. 🙂 And interesting connections to Lennon, including your beautiful poem.

    Liked by 1 person

    • memadtwo says :

      It is still used. First, the leaves were not even beginning to be green then, and it was a cold gloomy windy drizzly day. Not too many tourists around even. Much of the world looks forlorn under those conditions. We’re finally getting some green–I noticed it on my walk today (even though it was still grey chilly and gloomy). It makes everything more cheerful.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. jazzytower says :

    I really enjoyed this post. History and icons and loved the poems. That whole thing with John was such a sad time. Thanks for sharing. Nice work


    Liked by 1 person

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