As part of our Untapped Cities Insiders program, Insiders gain exclusive access to some of New York City’s most inaccessible locations, from historical sites that are only accessible with a guide like The Little Red Lighthouse, to behind-the-scenes areas of famous landmarks that are off-limits to the public, like the clocktower of the Jefferson Market Library. Last week, Insiders got a special look inside the construction of the Times Square Theater, the last historic theater on 42nd Street to undergo renovation.

Insiders were some of the last people who will get to see the historic elements of the theater before they are removed from the building for off-site restoration and re-installed in the new 52,000 square foot commercial building that will stand in the theater’s place. Read on to learn about this historic theater and its $100 million redevelopment and to see photographs of the tour from Insiders.

Untapped Cities Insiders got a grand tour of the entire theater, starting at the stage. The Times Square Theater was small. It only ever held 900 people and had a single balcony. There were also logistical issues for producing big Broadway plays as there was hardly any back-of-house space. The dressing rooms were stacked vertically so actors had to run up and down for costume changes.

Learning about the history of the theater and plans for its redevelopment from Armen Boyajian from Stillman Development International

Insiders standing where the stage would have been

Before any heavy duty construction can start on the theater, the delicate historical elements that Stillman Development International wants to save must be removed and taken off-site. Interior elements which include the stage’s proscenium arch, the box seats along with the decorative domes that hung above them and the domed ceiling of the theater will all be removed and crated off-site for restoration. The facade of the theater will be braced and hydraulically lifted four and half feet and the rest of the building will be replaced. The interior pieces that are salvaged will be re-installed in the same relation to each other in roughly the same location but on new upper levels to be built at the site. You can see renderings of Stillman’s plans here.

Details at the top of the stage’s proscenium arch

A decorative dome that hangs above the theater’s box seats

As we made our way through the maze of scaffolding, heading from the stage through the orchestra seats and up into the balcony, Insiders got to see all of the beautiful plaster work spread throughout the theater.

At the back of the orchestra looking up t the bottom of the balcony

Atop the balcony looking down at the stage. Since the theater was so small, every seat had a pretty good view.

Looking down from the top row of the balcony

After snapping pictures from the balcony, we made our way one-by-one up the steps to the top of the scaffolding where Insiders got a close-up look at the theater’s ceiling. Every inch of the pieces that are to be preserved have been hand inspected and laser measured.

The theater’s ceiling

The theater opened in 1920 and showed plays for nearly fifteen years. With the advent of the Great Depression, the theater started to show vaudeville and burlesques acts to survive. Eventually, in the 1940s, it was turned into a movie theater. In the picture below you can see holes in the wall where there would have been windows into the projection room.

The top of the stage’s proscenium

Check out the gallery below for more pictures taken by our Insiders on the trip. You too can join Untapped Cities to explore places like the Times Square Theater by becoming an Insider today. Sign up for membership to gain access to free behind-the-scenes tours and special New York City events all year long! 

See our full lists of upcoming Insider events and public tours!