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The rise and fall of the Dome

Before there was Tilles Center, there was the Dome

Auditorium. It was a 140-foot- diameter, galvanized steel structure near the

southwestern corner of the C.W. Post campus, with a cement floor and about

3,300 movable plastic seats, used for everything from basketball games and high

school graduations to concerts by artists such as pianist Arthur Rubenstein,

soprano Joan Sutherland and the Chicago Symphony.

Built in 1971 for $1.5 million, it was not the greatest place for musical

performance - not only were the acoustics bad, but when it rained, the sound of

water on steel could drown out the musicians. "It was like the inside of a

drum," impresario Bob Bernstein said at the time. But it was the largest such

space on Long Island, home for many years to Bernstein's Island Concert Hall

series, among other activities.

But the winter of 1978 was a bad one, with ice storms and frequent heavy

snows. On Wednesday, Jan. 18, the 2�-acre roof of the Hartford Civic Center

collapsed just hours after a game. Two days later, 17 inches of snow fell on

Long Island. More than 40 cars were left stranded on the Long Island

Expressway, and all but three of the Long Island Rail Road's electrified lines

shut down. Half the roof of a 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Jericho fell.

And sometime between 3:45 and 4 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, the Dome

collapsed under the weight of the accumulated ice and snow. The building was

empty at the time, and no one was hurt. In fact, the structure itself sank so

gently, apparently buoyed by the pressure of the air inside, that large

sections of chairs were left untouched and light fixtures were undamaged.

"It looks like a hard-boiled egg with its top cut off," a university

official said.

The following January, Post executives announced plans to build a

$3-million concert hall on the same site as a replacement. The 2,200- seat

auditorium that became the main hall of the Rose and Gilbert Tilles Center for

the Performing Arts ultimately cost about $4.5 million.

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