Once upon a time, it was the 1800s, and like the 1700s, a certain nostalgic Romantic spirit was felt, oft expressed in architecture by inspiration of the Classical. Therefore, when the original Madison Square Garden in New York City (located at 26th Street and Madison Avenue) was constructed in 1890, its designers presented a “Beaux-Arts structure with a Moorish feel”- topped by a statue of the Goddess Diana. Standing 18 feet tall atop a tower modeled after that of the Cathedral of Seville, which soared 32 stories above Manhattan (making it the second-largest building in the city at the time), the gilt copper statue dominated the scene so, Madison Square Park came to be known as “Diana’s.” The public space housed the largest main hall in the world; theater and concert halls; the largest restaurant in the city; and a rooftop cabaret-garden (surely providing a marvelous view of 19th century New York). An interesting point to note for Pagans who feel that it is some sort of outrageous sacrilege to present the Huntress-Goddess nude: the Divine She was apparently originally clothed, but- designed also to turn in the wind, in an apparent appreciative nod to Her Divine independence- Her clothes were soon blown away, displaying a rather daringly defiant (for the 1890s) Nude Goddess. (I’m sorry; I just get the impression of a Divinity Who is like, Get these clothes OFF me!! I am a Goddess Who will be FREE!! You go, Goddess Diana).
Hosting boxing matches; theater, orchestra, and opera performances; circuses; and the 1924 Democratic National Convention, this Madison Square Garden operated until 1925. The current Madison Square Garden (no longer deriving its name from proximity to Madison Square) was erected on Seventh Avenue between 31st and 33rd Streets, in the late 1960s. Currently the largest indoor space in the city, this facility (with an eye towards the entertainment of the populace, always a good thing) hosts sporting and music events, as well as the occasional entertainment spectacular- but is constructed in such a lamentable, block-like, boxy late-60′s style, it removes itself from the street-space in its barren ugliness, and is so regrettably dominated by electronic neon advertisements, it assaults the senses. Perhaps no better perception of the difference in sensibility between the late 1800s and our own period can be found, than in the graceful Madison Square Garden of the 1890s, with its soaring and liberated Diana, and the garish monstrosity that is the current popular Manhattan performance space.