Photograph by Jon Ortner, Courtesy of United Palace
The words “stunning” and “opulent” are hardly enough to describe the grandeur of Washington Heights‘ United Palace, the fifth of the Loew’s Wonder Theatres built in the New York City metropolitan area. When it opened in 1930 as the Loew’s 175th Street Theatre, the space primarily hosted first-run movies and vaudeville events. Today, it continues to stand thanks to the efforts of the United Palace of Spiritual Arts, which saved it from demolition by purchasing it in 1969.
While it’s still home to this spiritual center today, the theater — Manhattan’s fourth largest at 3,400 seats — also serves as a performance venue and has hosted a variety of artists including Lenny Kravitz, Adele, Bryan Ferry, Neil Young and Bob Dylan, to name a few.
This year, the United Palace will be celebrating its 90th anniversary! In honor of the special milestone, United Palace will be hosting a celebratory concert featuring Ms. Lauryn Hill and partnering with Untapped New York Insiders for a behind-the-scenes tour of the theater. Learn how you can join that tour here and check out the top 10 secrets of United Palace below!
Header photograph by Jon Ortner, Courtesy of United Palace
The United Palace Still Looks Like It Did When It Opened
When the Loew’s 175th Street was closing in 1969, United Palace of Spiritual Arts purchased the building that same year for over half a million dollars, and renamed it United Palace. It immediately began holding Sunday services there and commissioned extensive restoration efforts to bring the space back to the original grandeur envisioned by architect, Thomas Lamb.
Today, the theater still looks very much as it did when it first opened in 1930, complete with the original orchestra pit that still descends into the basement. The interior design of United Palace is a “mash up of all types of exotic, Far Eastern symbols and iconography,” according to Mike Fitelson, Executive Producer of the United Palace. In fact, the Far East was “all the rage back in the 1920’s,” and the theater was purposefully designed to transport visitors from New York City streets to a “fantasyland.” This was especially important because the United Palace was the only Loew’s Theatre to open after The Great Depression, creating a need for “escapist” entertainment.
Decorative specialist, Harold Rambusch — who also did the Waldorf Astoria and Radio City Music Hall — was the mastermind behind the theater’s elaborate interior. “There’s just a huge variety of architectural motifs,” says Fitelson. If you have the opportunity to enter the stunning space, keep an eye out for eclectic features, including lions, dragons, Buddhas and cherubs. To give you a hint of where to start, seahorses can be spotted dangling from a chandelier in the grand foyer, says Fitelson.