Town Hall was founded in 1921 by the League for Political Education—a suffragist group that fought for congressional passage of the 19th amendment (which dealt with women's right to vote). The roster of thinkers, political leaders and artists to have spoken and performed here is as astonishing as it is variegated: Marian Anderson, W. H. Auden, Joan Baez, Leonard Bernstein, David Byrne, Cab Calloway, Winston Churchill, Miles Davis, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Mann, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Eleanor Roosevelt, Carl Sandburg Andrés Segovia and Booker T. Washington, among others.
From 1935 to 1956 America's Town Meetings of the Air were broadcast weekly from its stage, bringing world leaders debating global issues into the homes of millions.
Recent programming has featured film screenings of popular and independent films followed by discussion with the filmmakers as part of The Feature Film Seminar Series; the critically acclaimed Broadway by the Year series; the Not Just Jazz, Broadway Cabaret Festival; and the Summer Broadway Festival. The Hall is frequently home to a range of indie, pop, world and classical musicians, Garrison Keillor's "A Prairie Home Companion," as well as spiritual groups, political organizations and more.
Rendered in Georgian Revival-style, Town Hall was designed by the renowned firm of McKim, Mead and White. It is well known for its fine acoustics and excellent sightlines.
Programs for schools teach the elements of stagecraft—including set, lighting and costume design, and stage management customized to the school's needs.