The Theater District’s 1982 Broadway Massacre

Ephemeral New York is a terrific little blog that doesn’t post often, but when an article does go up you can be assured it’s fascinating. With my interest in NYC geography and history, I naturally gravitated toward this article about the Broadway “massacre”–the year (1982) when no less than five historic theaters were torn down despite efforts to save them. Some of these theaters are mentioned in a few of my “Night Out in New York” posts. Sad to see, and this is a powerful argument for beefing up our historic preservation efforts.

Ephemeral New York

In the 1910s and 1920s, New York’s Theater District in the newly christened Times Square area was at peak popularity.


“Close to eighty theaters were in operation, with as many as seven shows debuting on the same night,” wrote Kevin C. Fitzpatrick in A Journey Into Dorothy Parker’s New York.

BroadwaymasscrebijoumoroscoBut as movies and TV replaced live theater as an entertainment option, many of Broadway’s venerable theater houses were slated for the wrecking ball.

No year had as many demolitions as 1982, when five theaters were to be reduced to a pile of bricks, then replaced by a new luxury hotel.

The plan for the hotel, with a new theater housed inside it, was first announced in 1973.

It gained support from city officials, who felt that Times Square’s seediness was driving away theatergoers. A theater safely ensconced away from the street, however, could draw back crowds.



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  1. sean, you should do an article about the orig penn-station. I seem to remember there was a station before the current one that had the best architecture of the era and all that, and it went to the heap of the wreckin’ball.

    1. You’re correct, it was demolished in 1963. I’ve had this on my list to do for a long time. The whole history of Penn Station is really interesting. It’ll probably have to be a series, as I doubt I can do it justice in a single article.

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