Eugene De Rosa
De Rosa's business flourished from 1918 to 1929 and was at its height during the Roaring Twenties, but it was largely destroyed by the Great Depression. During the 1930s he spent some years in London and settled for a while in Naples. Toward the end of World War II he was reported to be back in New York and beginning to work on post-war theatre projects, just before his death.
De Rosa was born in Calabria, in the far south of mainland Italy, in 1894. While he was still a small child his parents emigrated to the United States, arriving through Ellis Island and settling in New York City, where they were living by 1898. De Rosa had four brothers, Felix, Jerry, Vincent, and John, and also a sister, Sylvia. His brother Felix also became an architect.
By 1918 De Rosa was practising as an architect, quickly choosing to specialize in theatre design. An early project was his Vanderbilt Theatre, New York (1918). By 1919 he was in a partnership called "De Rosa & Pereira", and that year he represented several clients in appeals against decisions of the superintendent of buildings of the City of New York.
During the 1920s De Rosa obtained many more commissions for new theatres. The great driving force during his Roaring Twenties career was "the phenomenal growth in popularity of motion pictures", and his early work included the Times Square (1920), the Apollo on 42nd Street (1920), and Klaw (1921) Theatres. One important design for a site on Hyatt Street in St. George, Staten Island, provided not just a grand new theatre but also stores and offices.
De Rosa's business was largely destroyed by the Great Depression of the 1930s, during which he took the opportunity to travel overseas. He spent some years in London and settled for a while in Naples, where in 1935 he was reported to be "wonderfully helpful" to American and English visitors. His brother Felix De Rosa, also an architect, sold insurance during the Depression.
Before or during the Second World War De Rosa returned to New York, where by 1944 he was said to be working on new theatre projects. However, his death in about 1945 prevented the revival of his career.
Several of De Rosa's theatres are still standing, among them the 1000-seat Lafayette Theatre, Suffern (1924), an Adamesque building with a combination of French and Italian Renaissance influences ornamented in the Beaux Arts manner. An improvement scheme in 1927 added six distinctive opera boxes and further balcony seating. Unlike many others, the Lafayette was spared from demolition and multiplexing and continues to be used as a single-screen movie theatre.
De Rosa's huge 2,800-seat St. George Theatre, St. George, Staten Island, begun in 1928, cost $500,000 for the theatre alone and was part of a greater development project (an office complex is attached) worth some $2,000,000. The theatre opened on December 4, 1929, only weeks after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and remains in use. It is now owned by St. George Theatre Restoration Inc., a non-profit organization which aims to restore the building and to develop it as a performing arts and cultural center. Most of the ornate interior was designed not by De Rosa but by Nestor Castro.
List of theatres
- Vanderbilt Theatre, New York (1918; demolished 1954)
- Coliseum Theatre, 4260 Broadway, New York (1920)
- Times Square Theatre, New York (1920; still standing, but not in use)
- Apollo Theatre, 42nd Street, New York (1920; demolished 1996)
- Klaw Theatre, 251–257 West 45th Street, New York (1921); in 1929 renamed the Avon; demolished 1954
- Criterion Theatre, New York
- The Broadway Theatre, New York (1924, still in use)
- Lafayette Theatre, Suffern, New York (1924, still in use)
- Gallo Opera House, New York (1927), later renamed Studio 54
- Inwood Theatre, New York (1927)
- St. George Theatre, St. George, Staten Island (1928–1929, still in use)
- New Cataract Theatre, Niagara Falls
- Missouri Theatre, St. Louis, Missouri
- Lincoln Theatre, Trenton, New Jersey
- Eugene De Rosa, Selections from the recent work of Eugene De Rosa, architect: 15 West 44th Street, New York (Architectural Catalog Co., 1927)
- Fred-Eric DeRosa, Eugene DeRosa, architect of the Apollo Theatre dated January 12, 2007, at cinematreasures.org, accessed 10 February 2012
- Colin Chambers, Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre (2006), p. 32: "As in Britain, some architects became specialists in theatre design; among these were Herts and Tallent, Thomas Lamb, William Lehman, Eugene de Rosa, Walter Ahlschlager, Frank Grad, John Eberson, and Rapp and Rapp."
- Vanderbilt Theatre at Internet Broadway Database, accessed 12 February 2012
- Bulletin of the Board of Standards and Appeals of the City of New York vol. 4 (New York: Board of Standards and Appeals, 1919), pp. 355, 865, & 986
- Building age and national builder, vol. 47, issues 7–12 (1925) : "the phenomenal growth in popularity of motion pictures ... This house, which was opened recently, is the design of Eugene De Rosa, architect, of New York, who is by way of being a specialist in theatre architecture, having to his credit, among others, the Times Square, Apollo, Klaw".
- David Goldfarb, James G. Ferreri, St. George (2009), p. 75: "By 1929, the large edifice designed by Eugene De Rosa on Hyatt Street at St. Mark's Place was constructed to house stores, offices as well as the grandest theater on Staten Island, the St. George."
- Clara Elizabeth Laughlin, So you're going to the Mediterranean!: And if I were going with you, these are the things I'd invite you to do (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1935), p. 202: "... the Italian Tourist Company. In the Naples office of this company ask for Mr Eugene L. De Rosa, who has spent years in London and in America and is wonderfully helpful to English and American travellers..."
- Pencil Points, vol. 25, part 2 (Reinhold, 1944), p. 124: "Eugene De Rosa, New York architect, is recognized as an expert on theatre design and now on his boards are a number of postwar theatre projects."
- Craig H. Long, Suffern (2011), p. 42
- Don B. Wilmeth, The Cambridge guide to American theatre (2007), p. 129: "Broadway, NYC [Architect: Eugene De Rosa]. Opened as B. S. Moss's Colony Theatre in 1924."
- "The Broadway Theatre". New York Show Tickets. New York TV Show Tickets Inc. 2008. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
- About Us at stgeorgetheatre.com, accessed 12 February 2012
- Marquee, vols. 33–34 (Theatre Historical Society, 2001), p. 20: "Coliseum 4260 Broadway Opened: September 23, 1920 Architect: Eugene De Rosa Capacity: 3462"
- Avon Theatre at broadwayworld.com, accessed 12 February 2012
- 'Criterion Theatre, New York' in Motion Picture Herald, vol. 124, issues 7–13 (Quigley Publishing Co., 1936), p. 10
- Building Age vol. 49 (1927) p. 154: "Auditorium of Inwood Theatre, New York, Eugene De Rosa, Architect, M. Shapiro & Son, Builders."
- outline at books.google.co.uk, accessed 10 February 2012