Former Broadway Theatres:
Compiled by John Kenrick
These theatres are still standing but are no longer used for Broadway performances.
- Castle Garden
- Hollywood/Mark Hellinger
- Manhattan Opera House
- Times Square
(The images below are thumbnails – click on them to see larger versions.)
"As much as these irreplaceable landmarked theatres need to be treasured, their preservation must be balanced with the development of alternate uses that can keep them open, inviting and architecturally intact. The current uses of the Hollywood, Ed Sullivan (Hammerstein's) and Hudson theatres are winning examples of such creative transformation . . ."
- Nicholas Van Hoogstraten, Lost Broadway Theatres (Revised Edition - New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1997) p. 288.
History: Originally Fort Clinton, this round brick edifice was built on a small island just off the shoreline of Battery Park. As landfill expanded Lower Manhattan's coast, the island was subsumed into parkland. In 1824, the U.S. military abandoned the fort, which was roofed over and converted into an indoor garden. Renovated to serve as a concert venue in 1839, it was used by early minstrel troupes. In 1847, it was dubbed Castle Garden and became an opera house, hosting Jenny Lind's New York debut in 1850. Five years later it was converted into a processing center for the growing influx of immigrants, a job it filled for several decades. It became the city's aquarium in 1895. Now owned by the U.S. government, it serves as a mostly open-air reception center for visitors to the Statue of Liberty.
236 West 42nd Street
Later named: Empire
Architect: Thomas White Lamb
Note: Named for female impersonator and vaudeville star Julian Eltinge, this once handsome theatre has been a vaudeville house (Abbott & Costello won laughs here) and legit Broadway venue. It now survives as the facade and lobby of the AMC 42nd Street Movie multiplex. For this purpose, the entire building was moved 200 feet to the East of its original location in 1998. Although the original exterior is mostly intact, the new interior multiplex layout (aside from some ornamental decor in the lobby) has little relation to the original.
Musicals: Blackbirds of 1928
Later named: Manhattan, Ed Sullivan
Seats: Originally 1,204
Architect: Herbert J. Krapp
History: Built by Arthur Hammerstein (son of impresario Oscar I, and father of lyricist-librettist Oscar II), the ornate gothic interior included ten massive stained glass windows leading up to a fifty foot ceiling. Producer Billy Rose turned this space into a nightclub in the early 1930s, but CBS has used this as a radio and TV studio since 1936. The longtime home of the Ed Sullivan Show (1957-1974), it has been home to The David Letterman Show since 1993. Some of the interior ornamentation has been obscured, and the long-neglected stained glass windows have supposedly been placed in storage.
Musicals: Golden Dawn (1927), Good Boy (1928), Sweet Adeline (1929), Luana (1930)
237 West 51st Street
Later named: 51st Street, Mark Hellinger
Seats: originally 1,506 - now 1,603
Architect: Thomas Lamb
History: Built as a Warner Brothers movie palace, this space switched over to live performances in the 1940s and housed several major hits. Current home of the Times Square Church, this ornate house has been well maintained and could return to theatrical use in the future.
Musicals: Texas Lil' Darlin' (1949), Plain and Fancy (1955), My Fair Lady (1956), Coco (1969), Jesus Christ Superstar (1971), Sugar Babies (1980)
139 West 44th Street
Later named: Avon Hudson
Architects: J. B. McElfatrick & Co.
History: Primarily a venue for intimate dramas and comedies, this theatre was home to NBC's Tonight Show from 1954 to 1959. It is currently a hotel conference center.
Musicals: This Was Burlesque (1965)
234 West 42nd Street
Architects: Herts & Tallant
History: This once popular musical theatre venue was used as a movie house from 1933 to the 1990s. In 1996, it housed a stage version of Eliot's The Waste Land, and was used by Lincoln Center's Angel Project in 2003. According to recent reports, it is marked for demolition.
Musicals: The Rogers Brothers in Paris (1904), Little Johnny Jones (1904), Going Up (1917), George White's Scandals (1918 & 1921), Hitchy Koo of 1919, Little Nelly Kelly (1922), Lady Be Good (1924), Tip Toes (1925), Blackbirds of 1928, Brown Buddies (1930)
Manhattan Opera House
311 West 34th Street
Architects: J. B. McElfatrick & Son
History: Built by impresario Oscar Hammerstein I as an opera venue, the Metropolitan Opera bought him out in 1911. This massive theatre filled various purposes over the years. It was used as a Vitaphone film studio in 1926 and became a meeting hall in 1940. Although the shape of the auditorium remains, the ornate interior decorations are long gone. Now called Manhattan Center, it houses concerts, TV events and corporate functions. The PBS special Three Mo' Tenors was filmed here.
215 West 42nd Street
Architect: Eugene DeRosa
History: This once-elegant theatre housed such illustrious productions as Noel Coward's Private Lives. It now sits empty, its interior defaced and its fate uncertain.
Musicals: George White's Scandals (1926), Flying High (1931), Take a Chance (1932)