The Apollo Theater opened on December 15, 1913 as Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater. The 1,853 seat theater is located in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. It was designed by architect George Keister who is also known for the American Airlines Theatre in Times Square.
The theater showed burlesque in its early years, but with the decline of burlesque in the late 1920s and 1930s (partially due to Fiorello LaGuardia’s campaign against it) the theater switched to variety revues. The theater was purchased in 1933 by Sidney Cohen and renamed the Apollo. Cohen began to market the shows to Harlem’s growing black community.
The Apollo Theater is most well known for Amateur Night at the Apollo, which debuted in 1934. Amateur night gave unknown talent a venue for performances and eventually helped to launch the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, James Brown and Lauryn Hill.
The theater closed in the late 1970s, reopened in 1978, and closed again a year later. It was purchased by Percy Sutton and a group of investors in 1981. Sutton added a recording and television studio to the theater. The Apollo Theater Foundation, Inc. was established in 1991 to fund and oversee programming for the theater.
With potential funds from Partners in Preservation, the Apollo will undertake a restoration of specific decorative elements in this historic auditorium. Restoration plans include the decorative plasters on the box seats and doorways, details on the fascia on the mezzanine, and the ornamental wall which separates the seating area from the auditorium lobby.
Click here to vote for the Apollo Theater in Partners in Preservation, and find out more about @ApolloTheater and Facebook. Follow Untapped Cities on Twitter and Facebook. Get in touch with the author @mattlambros and at After the Final Curtain.
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