New York City's Hippodrome Theater Closes

On August 16, 1939, New York City's Hippodrome Theater closed its doors for the last time.

Built in 1905 with a seating capacity of 5,200, for a time the Hippodrome was the largest and most successful theater in New York. The Hippodrome featured lavish spectacles complete with circus animals, diving horses, opulent sets, and 500-member choruses. The most popular vaudeville artists of the day, including illusionist Harry Houdini, performed at the Hippodrome during its heyday.

In 1922, the elephants that graced the stage of the Hippodrome since its opening moved uptown to the Bronx's Royal Theater. On arrival, stage worker Miller Renard recalled, the elephants were greeted with extraordinary fanfare.

The Hippodrome Theatre (aka New York Hippodrome, 1933) stood in New York City from 1905 to 1939, at 6th and 43rd/44th, on the site of what is now a large modern office building known as "The Hippodrome Center" (1120 Avenue of the Americas), in the Theater District of Midtown Manhattan. It was called the world's largest theatre by its builders and held 6,000 with a 100x200-ft (30x61-m) stage and a rising glass water tank.

The Hippodrome was built by Frederick Thompson and Elmer Dundy, creators of the Luna Park amusement park at Coney Island. The theatre was located on Sixth Avenue (now named Avenue of the Americas) between Forty-third and Forty-fourth streets. Its auditorium seated 5,300 people, and it was equipped with what was then the state of the art in theatrical technology. The theatre was acquired by The Shubert Organization in 1909. In 1933, it was re-opened as the New York Hippodrome cinema, became the stage for Billy Rose's "Jumbo" in 1935, but closed in August 1939 for demolition (after WWII, the office building opened in 1952). Acts included numerous circuses, musical reviews, Neptune's Daughter (1914 film), Better Times (1922), Harry Houdini's disappearing elephant, vaudeville, silent movies, and 1930s cinema.