A small piece of the composer's New York home lives on in the center of Czech culture in Manhattan.
Though 19th-century composer Antonín Dvořák was born in what is now Czechia and spent most of his career in Europe, it was during the three years he lived in the U.S. that he would compose his two most famous works. Dvořák was appointed director of New York’s National Conservatory of Music in 1892, and wrote his “Symphony No. 9 (From the New World)” and “Cello Symphony in B minor (Op. 104, B. 191)” from a house at 327 East 17th Street.
By the mid-20th century, the Italianate row house was otherwise unremarkable but for a plaque marking the composer’s brief residence there; over the years it had been altered in enough ways that it was determined to lack architectural merit. Still, the building’s brief brush with musical fame led preservationists to try and save it. They almost succeeded in 1991, with the Landmarks Preservation Commission granting it historic designation, but the City Council overturned the ruling later that year. The house was razed in 1992.
Before the house was destroyed, architect Jan Hird Pokorny managed to save parts of the mantelpieces from the front and back parlors. The newly formed Dvořák American Heritage Association set out to create a memorial room in the Bohemian National Hall uptown to honor the composer, with the reassembled mantelpiece installed alongside period furniture. Though the furnishings were not owned by Dvořák, the idea was to capture what the room might have looked like when he lived there based on the style at the time. The plaque from the original house is mounted just outside the room, while inside there’s a plaster cast of the Dvořák statue that now stands in Stuyvesant Square Park.
Know Before You Go
The room is located on the third floor of the Bohemian National Hall and is open during events and by appointment. The nearest subway station is 72nd Street on the Q line.
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