The Harlem Alhambra

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Drawing published in 1904 of the planned Harlem Alhambra, which was then called the Auditorium.

The The Harlem Alhambra was a theater in Harlem, New York, built in 1905, that began as a vaudeville venue. The building still stands. The architect was John Bailey McElfatrick (1829–1906) who, based in Manhattan, founded the architectural firm John B. McElfatrick & Son – builder of 100 theaters.[1] Construction on the structure commenced late 1902 by its original owner, Harlem Auditorium Amusement Company.


The original design included specifications for a rathskeller, which was to be a reproduction of the Brunheil Rathskeller in Leipzig, a music hall, a roof garden, and an apartment house.[2][3] The building is six stories.

Initial opening[edit]

The original owners started it in 1903; but it was not completed owing to litigation. At some point during the litigation, the Orpheum Amusement Company, of which Percy G. Williams (1857–1923) was president, acquired the property. When Williams opened the theater on May 15, 1905, the seating capacity was 1,650.[4] By 1910, Williams managed the largest number of vaudeville theaters in New York City — two in Manhattan, one in the Bronx, and one each in Brooklyn and Queens.[5]

Jazz era[edit]

It eventually became a movie venue and, in 1929, opened a famed upstairs ballroom that hosted performers including Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday.

Current use[edit]

The ballroom fell into disrepair in the 1960s, but, reopened in 2003 as The Alhambra Ballroom, Inc. (Willie Mae Scott, CEO), which hosts weddings, parties, and other social events. In 2006, Harlem Lanes – a bowling facility – opened on the third and fourth floors.[6] Harlem Bowling Center LLC (Sharon Jones, CEO) is the owner. Other tenants include the King Solomon Grand Lodge of New York, Inc. (Masonic). In June 2009, a new restaurant – Gospel Uptown (owned by Joseph H. Holland) – opened on the ground floor, replacing short-lived seafood restaurant, Pier 2110.


The building is located at 2116 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (7th Avenue) at 126th Street in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. Mitchell Enterprises, Inc., as of 2011, owns the building.


  1. ^ Architect Dies at Work. J.B.McElfatrick’s Heart Fails in His Office -- He Built 100 Theatres, The New York Times, June 7, 1906 (below Karl von Hartmann obituary), retrieved October 23, 2012
  2. ^ New Uptown Theatre. Harlem Auditorium at Seventh Avenue and 126th Street to be Completed by March Next, The New York Times, September 19, 1902, retrieved October 23, 2012
  3. ^ The Harlem Auditorium. John B. McElfatrick & Son, Architects, Architect's and Builders' Magazine, Vol. 36 No. 5 (February, 1904), pp. 223-7, retrieved June 9, 2014
  4. ^ Article 10-No Title, col. 1The New York Times, May 14, 1905, retrieved October 23, 2012
  5. ^ What the Season Promises for Patrons of Vaudeville, The New York Times, September 11, 1910, retrieved October 23, 2012
  6. ^ Vincent M. Mallozzi, On 126th St., Harlem Lanes Opens Its Doors, and Alleys, The New York Times, April 2, 2006, retrieved October 23, 2012