Silliman Hall: From New York to Dumaguete

Silliman Hall: A piece of New York City in Dumaguete

The picture above is the ground floor of Silliman Hall. This hall is the crown jewel of the oldest building in Silliman University built in 1904.

And this is the closest I’ll get to touching a piece – or pieces – of New York City.

According to university president Dr. Ben Malayang, the materials used for the hall’s ornate ceilings, elegant columns, and checkered tile floor all come from a Broadway theater in New York City.

The theater was torn down sometime in 1903. Someone (God bless you whoever you were) salvaged pieces of it and brought it to Dumaguete City to be used in an industrial school that was being put up with initial funds from Dr. Horace Silliman, a retired businessman from the Cohoes town in New York State. That industrial school would become today’s Silliman University.

I’m thinking that that someone who gathered pieces from the theater’s debris most likely was an associate of Dr. Silliman.

I was inside the hall to cover an event (which I’ll blog about later) and when Dr. Malayang spliced this amazing little piece of history in his speech, I felt a frisson of excitement. I was surrounded by pieces of old New York! Frank Sinatra’s New York New York song instantly played in my mind.

The ornate metal pan ceiling
The ornate metal pan ceiling

The ornate metal pan ceiling, the cast iron columns, and the black and white squares on the floor – they once housed an actual Broadway theater. What musical greats once walked on these checkerboard tiles? What songs once wafted past these elegant columns? Oh, if only they could talk!

The checkerboard tile floor
The checkerboard tile floor

I wonder also what Broadway theater that was that died in order to breathe life in a building that now stands in one of the oldest and premier universities in the Philippines? I Googled it up but the defunct theater remains unknown. If anyone knows, do tell me about it by leaving a comment.

So now I’m spreading the news. My vagabond shoes have walked on floor tiles that once was part of old New York. My little town blues have melted away.

Ok, erase that. It  sounds cheesy!

Silliman Hall is the nearest that I can get right now to “walking into” a Broadway theater and touching a piece of New York City. Fingers crossed that someday I can get to actually walk into a real, living and breathing Broadway theater.

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I write to live, or live to write. Whichever it is, writing is my life.

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