48th Street Theatre

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48th Street Theatre
48th Street Theatre.jpg
48th Street Theatre in 1912
Address 157 West 48th Street
Manhattan, New York City
United States
Coordinates 40°45′35″N 73°59′00″W / 40.7597°N 73.9833°W / 40.7597; -73.9833Coordinates: 40°45′35″N 73°59′00″W / 40.7597°N 73.9833°W / 40.7597; -73.9833
Type Broadway
Opened August 12, 1912
Closed August 23, 1955
Demolished 1955
Architect William A. Swasey

The 48th Street Theatre was a Broadway theatre at 157 West 48th Street in Manhattan. It was built by longtime Broadway producer William A. Brady and designed by architect William A. Swasey.[1]


The 48th Street Theatre opened on August 12, 1912 with the play Just Like John by George Broadhurst.[1][2] Early successes at the theatre included Never Say Die (1912), Today (1913), The Midnight Girl (1914), Just a Woman (1916), The Man Who Stayed Home (1918), The Storm (1919), and Opportunity (1920) starring Nita Naldi.[1] The Theatre was briefly named the Equity 48th Street Theatre from the premiere of Malvaloca on October 2, 1922, until the premiere of Spooks on June 1, 1925.[1] During this period they had a successful revival of Henrik Ibsen's The Wild Duck.[1]

On April 18, 1926, the theatre featured the professional debut of Martha Graham as an independent dancer and choreographer.[3] Graham and three of her students performed 18 short pieces accompanied by the music of Impressionist composers. Despite poor weather, the evening was a success, which Graham attributed to "curiosity" as people attended to see "a woman who could do her own work".[3][4]

On November 11, 1926, the theatre premiered The Squall by Jean Bart, starring Blanche Yurka, Romney Brent, and Dorothy Stickney.[1] June Mathis, the Hollywood screenwriter and executive credited with discovering Rudolph Valentino, died at the theatre on July 27, 1927.[5] While attending a performance of The Squall with her grandmother, she stood up during the last act and exclaimed "Mother, I'm dying!" She was 38 years old.[5]

Other notable performances at the theatre during this period included Puppy Love (1926) starring Spring Byington, The Pagan Lady (1930) starring Lenore Ulric, and Unexpected Husband (1931) starring Josephine Hull.[1]

The theatre was sold and renamed the Windsor Theatre by producer Sam H. Grisman, beginning with the premiere of Work Is for Horses on November 20, 1937.[1][2][6] The Windsor, along with the Princess Theatre, was used for Labor Stage, a project of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, which produced plays and held lectures and meetings. Perhaps the most notable play at the Windsor was a January 3, 1938 revival of Marc Blitzstein's controversial political musical The Cradle Will Rock, produced by Grisman and directed by Orson Welles. Political pressure had cancelled the premiere of the previous year at the Maxine Elliott Theatre, and Welles was forced to direct 19 performances in the seats of the Venice Theatre because the actors were forbidden to perform on stage by union rules.[7]

On September 1, 1943, the theatre once again became the 48th Street Theatre. The most successful play in the theatre's history premiered on November 1, 1944: Harvey by Mary Chase and starring Frank Fay, which ran for 1775 performances, won Chase the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and was adapted into a 1950 film starring James Stewart.[1][2] Another success at the theatre was Stalag 17 (1951), which was also made into a successful 1953 film.[1]

On August 23, 1955, one of two water tanks on the top of the building fell through the roof and 10,000 gallons of water caused extensive damage to the interior. The theatre was closed and the building was demolished later that year.[1][2][8] The address is now the site of a parking garage.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ken Bloom (2007). The Routledge Guide To Broadway. CRC Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-0-415-97380-9. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Walter Rigdon, ed. (1966). The Biographical Encyclopedia & Who's Who of the American Theatre. James H. Heineman, Inc. p. 957. 
  3. ^ a b Kisselgoff, Anna (April 2, 1991). "Martha Graham Dies at 96; A Revolutionary in Dance". New York Times. Retrieved January 17, 2013. 
  4. ^ Russell Freedman (1998). Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 42. ISBN 978-0-395-74655-4. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Allan R. Ellenberger (2005). The Valentino Mystique: The Death And Afterlife Of The Silent Film Idol. McFarland. pp. 275–. ISBN 978-0-7864-1950-0. Retrieved 17 January 2013. 
  6. ^ "News of the Stage: Victor Wolfson Writes Another Play; John C. Wilson Buys It-48th St. Theatre Renamed the Windsor". New York Times. 13 July 1937. p. 22. 
  7. ^ Stanley Green; Kay Green (1996). Broadway Musicals: Show by Show. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-7935-7750-7. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 
  8. ^ "Water Tank Falls Through Roof of 48th St. Theatre and Into Empty Seats". New York Times. August 24, 1955. pp. 1, 22. 
  9. ^ Nicholas Van Hoogstraten (May 1991). Lost Broadway theatres. Princeton Architectural Press. ISBN 978-0-910413-58-9. Retrieved 18 January 2013. 

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