On May 31st, 1879, a gala was held to officially open the first building to be called .Madison Square Garden'. It was located at the corner of Madison Square Park at 26th Street and Madison Avenue, where today the New York Life building by Cass Gilbert stands. It was originally built in 1874 and named the Great Roman Hippodrome by P.T. Barnum, and later called Gilmore's Garden. It was then given the name which still exists today by the site's owner William Kissam Vanderbilt.
The first Madison Square Garden hosted boxing matches, including one with John L Sullivan, track-and-field events, Elks conventions, the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and more. The Madison, an Olympic track cycling discipline, derives its name from the Garden.
The building was demolished in 1889 and replaced at the same location by the second Madison Square Garden, an architectural masterpiece of Stanford White. That building was demolished in 1926, though the name lived on at a different location at 8th Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets. Today's Madison Square Garden is at 33rd Street and 8th Avenue. The current stadium is the 4th building to bear the name and its third location.