Audubon Ballroom

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View of the Audubon Business and Technology Center, showing the restored façade of the Audubon Ballroom.
Entrance to the Audubon Business and Technology Center.

The Audubon Ballroom was a theatre and ballroom located on Broadway at 165th Street in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan, north of Harlem in New York. It is best known as the site of Malcolm X's assassination on February 21, 1965.

The Audubon Ballroom was built in 1912 by film producer William Fox, who later founded the Fox Film Corporation. Fox hired Thomas W. Lamb, one of the foremost American theater architects, as its designer. Among the architectural highlights in the façade of the Audubon Ballroom are brown foxes between the windows on the second floor, intended to flatter Fox.[1]

During its history, the Audubon Ballroom was used as a vaudeville house, a movie theater, and a meeting hall.[1] In the 1930s, Congregation Emes Wozedek, a synagogue whose members were predominantly Jewish immigrants from Germany, began to use the Audubon Ballroom to conduct its religious services.[2] In 1950, the congregants purchased the building,[1] and they continued to hold services there until 1983.[3]

Detail of the restored façade above the entrance.

After Malcolm X left the Nation of Islam in 1964, he founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). The weekly meetings of the OAAU were held at the Audubon Ballroom and it was at one of those meetings, on February 21, 1965, that Malcolm X was assassinated.

In 1992, Columbia University began the process of demolishing the Audubon Ballroom and replacing it with the Audubon Business and Technology Center, a university-related biotechnology research park that is a public-private partnership between Columbia University Medical Center and the New York state and city governments. Historic preservation groups unsuccessfully sued to prevent its demolition,[4] and a group of Columbia students occupied Hamilton Hall on campus in protest. Eventually, the University reached a compromise with local community groups.[5] Under the agreement, the University restored a portion of the original façade of the Audubon Ballroom and built a museum inside to honor Malcolm X. In 2005 the University announced the opening of the museum, the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Discovering Northern Manhattan: Guide to Washington Heights and Inwood, Chamber of Commerce of Washington Heights and Inwood, Inc.
  2. ^ Steven M. Lowenstein, Frankfurt on the Hudson: The German-Jewish Community of Washington Heights, 1933-1983, Its Structure and Culture (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991) pp. 109-110. ISBN 0-8143-2385-5.
  3. ^ James Renner, "History of WaHI: Audubon Ballroom", Washington Heights & Inwood Online, May 2003.
  4. ^ Buder, Leonard (May 3, 1990). "A Proposal to Raze Audubon Ballroom Causes Controversy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-14. 
  5. ^ The University as Urban Developer: Case Studies and Analysis, by David C. Perry, Wim Wiewel, Lincoln Institute, 2005 pp. 54 ff.
  6. ^ "Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center Launches". Columbia University. May 17, 2005. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 

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Coordinates: 40°50′21″N 73°56′26″W / 40.83917°N 73.94056°W / 40.83917; -73.94056