The hall is named after Andrew Carnegie, who paid for its construction. It was designed in a revivalist brick Italian Renaissance style by William Burnet Tuthill and construction began by Isaac A. Hopper and Company in 1890. Although the building was in use from April 1891, with May 5 the official opening night, building work continued until 1897. The Hall is actually made up of three distinct structures and presents a fairly confusing internal structure. There were three auditoriums - the Main Hall, the Recital Hall and the Chamber Music Hall
The Main Hall can currently hold an audience of 2,804 in five levels of seating, at the moment it is called the Isaac Stern Auditorium. The two smaller halls, currently named the Judy and Arthur Zankel Hall and the Joan and Sanford L. Weill Recital Hall, seat 650 and 268 people respectively. The two largest auditoria were given their names in 1986 following a extensive renovation. The smallest hall had been leased to the AADA in 1898, converted to a cinema in 196? it was reclaimed to be used as an auditorium in 1997, it is expected to open in 2003. The site also contains the Rose Museum and the Carnegie Hall Archives, both relatively recent additions.
The site was owned by the Carnegies until 1924 when Andrew's widow sold it to a real estate developer, Robert E. Simon. By 1960 with the New York Philharmonic on the move to the Lincoln Center the building was intended to be demolished and replaced with a commercial building. Under pressure from a group led by Isaac Stern the site was bought by the city in 1960 for $5 million and leased to a not-for-profit corporation. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The dilapidated building was given an extensive series of renovations between 1983 to 1995.
Despite the landmark status of Carnegie Hall, plans for a commercial building were not entirely scrapped. In 1987-1989, a 60-floor mixed office and residential tower, now named Carnegie Hall Tower, was completed next to the hall on the same block.