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Stanford White

Mon 07 2017 , by

Up On The Roof

From the blog of The Museum of the City of New York:

Up on the roof, entertainment en plein air

Spring in New York City is glorious.  Allergy issues aside, the season of rebirth is especially welcome after this winter’s polar vortex shenanigans.  And though I celebrate the sunny days and refreshing rain of spring, I can see the heat waves forming on the horizon.  Summer is coming and with it a suffocating wall of humidity.

One of my best strategies to beat the heat is going to the theater. Be it a movie, musical, or play,  the cool darkness of a theater combined with a few hours of entertainment is my preferred place to be on an unbearably hot day.  A hundred years ago, this wasn’t so much the case.  Without air conditioning, the heat of the lights and the crush of fellow audience members could make visiting the theater  intolerable.  Not wishing to lose business during the summer months, theater owners came up with a new strategy: the roof!

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) [Roof Garden, Madison Square Garden Theatre.] ca. 1900.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Roof Garden, Madison Square Garden Theatre. ca. 1900. Museum of the City of New York, 93.1.1.10866.

In the photograph above, a rooftop audience enjoys some light entertainment on the Madison Square Garden roof.  This MSG was located at 26th Street and Madison Avenue.  Designed by Stanford White, it was the second tallest building in the City at the time construction finished in 1890. Part of the fun for the audience was the chance to watch musical comedies and operettas from 32 stories off the ground. (Check out Mia’s early blog on the theater’s Diana statue.)

Further uptown at 44th and Broadway, the New York Theatre roof offered similar entertainment fare. The New York Theatre was originally built as the Olympia Theatre by  Oscar Hammerstein I (the grandfather of the Oscar Hammerstein from musical theater’s famous “Rodgers & Hammerstein”).

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Roof Garden, New York Theatre. ca. 1901. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.10880.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Roof Garden, New York Theatre. ca. 1901. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.10880.

Though a financial failure for Hammerstein I, the theater was only the second to be built in what would become the Times Square Theater District.  In 1895, the area was known as Longacre Square.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Roof Garden, New York Theatre. ca. 1901. Museum of the City of New York, 93.1.1.10877.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Roof Garden, New York Theatre. ca. 1901. Museum of the City of New York, 93.1.1.10877.

Hammerstein I’s second effort at extravagant outdoor entertainment was the  Paradise Roof Garden at 201 West 42nd Street.  Part enclosed space and part open air, the Garden spanned the roofs of  the Victoria Theatre and the Theatre Republic next door.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). [Roof Garden, Paradise atop Hammerstein's Victoria.] ca. 1904.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Roof Garden, Paradise atop Hammerstein’s Victoria.]ca. 1901. Museum of the City of New York, 93.1.1.10856.

The Paradise Roof Garden was run by Hammerstein I’s son Willie.  As the noise of an ever expanding New York drifted upward, the vaudeville shows presented on the roof adapted to include wordless routines and pantomime.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) [Roof Garden, Paradise atop Hammerstein's Victoria.] ca. 1904.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Roof Garden, Paradise atop Hammerstein’s Victoria. ca.

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from Bowery Boogie:
Debbie Harry and Martin Scorsese Support Landmarking 239 Elizabeth Street in Little Italy and so Should You [OP-ED]

Posted on: July 12th, 2016 at 5:19 am by

239elizabeth

What follows is a selection from a “Request for Evaluation” sent to the Landmarks Preservation Commission last week to calendar 239 Elizabeth Street for landmarking. Author of the pitch, building resident Beth Joy Knutsen-Papaleo, even received letters of endorsement from Debbie Harry and Martin Scorsese.

“I am dead sick of tasteless developers who never wanted to live in NYC deciding what’s right for a neighborhood. The neighborhoods are like small towns and have their own histories and identities which are vitally important to maintain and remember. Let’s keep the many flavors and colors that make New York City such a special place, not just another bland expression of greedy commercialism and bad architecture.” –Debbie Harry

“For over 25 years, I have advocated for the preservation of our cultural heritage through film preservation because it is so important to understand and appreciate our past. Elizabeth Street between East Houston and Prince is a crucial piece of Little Italy’s history and an important landmark of New York’s unique immigrant heritage.” –Martin Scorsese


We, the 239 Elizabeth Street’s Tenant’s Association, believe the time is now to landmark our building’s incredible history, alongside its pivotal location, for generations to come. Our rent-stabilized tenants span decades, living here in our building and neighborhood by sharing great stories of times past.

A reflection of community for me for the past 18 years, and for my daughter’s future residing here, has been woven into the fabric of unique, outstanding memories of years past and yet to come with excitement. A sense of fortitude and family values flourishes when I open the door to our distinctly historic and soulful building.

It is not only our building, but the block of Elizabeth Street between Prince and East Houston that must be preserved for the sake of what made our little street so incredibly important.

Scorsese and De Niro filming Taxi Driver

Landmarking our outstanding building is the first step. Generations of Italians spanning 9 decades still call this home and are asking you, The Landmarks Preservation Commission, to listen to our request with an open heart and mind.

Conceptualizing our building in 1904 collaborated in the form of the greatest architectural trio at the turn of the century. The 3 brilliant designers: William Kurtzer, Charles Rentz & Stanford White. It was commissioned by Peter P. Acritelli.

  • William Kurtzer: was famous for his specialized cast iron ornamentation and foundation work on building’s interiors and exteriors. It was his dedication to the German Renaissance & Neo-Grec style. He also designed/built properties for The Astor & Vanderbilt families around New York City.
  • Charles Rentz: a prolific architect was known best for designing and building the now land-marked Webster Hall with terra cotta facade and his specialty of Renaissance Revival.
  • Stanford White: an inspiring and instrumental builder of our great city. In being the pioneering expert of Beaux-Arts American Renaissance Architecture, he chose our building to be his first and only tenement work.

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