The story of New York City’s ballrooms form one facet of the city-wide story of a changing entertainment industry and real estate market. Many of the iconic music venues survived Prohibition, only to be taken down by the advent of radio and television. The large spaces necessitated diversification of events and venues, causing their musical cache to fall as real estate pressures were rising. This list of New York City’s ballrooms include those lost, those still standing and those converted, as well as new ballrooms adapted from other types of spaces. Not all were music venues, but all have a unique story to tell as part of the city’s history. Here are 12 historic ballrooms:
11. Audubon Ballroom
The Audubon Ballroom at 165th Street and Broadway is most notable for being the site of Malcolm X’s assassination but it was originally the William Fox Audubon Theatre, designed by Thomas Lamb. In 1927, it became one of the first theaters in the area to feature talkies. The second floor of the theater was constructed as a ballroom, which held dances and special events.
After the assassination, the Ballroom closed and was taken over by the City for non-payment of taxes. The former theater was purchased by Columbia, which began demolishing the structure in 1992. Before it was able to completely demolish the building, the University relented to public pressure and reached a compromise with local community groups. Columbia left most of the original Thomas Lamb facade (and even restored it) and provided space for the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center within the building.