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Century Theatre (New York City)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Century Theatre
New Theatre - NE exterior view - The Architect 1909.jpg
The New Theatre on Central Park West,
New York City, 1909.
Alternative namesNew Theatre
Century Opera House
General information
TypeTheatre, opera house
Architectural styleBeaux-Arts
LocationCentral Park West at 62nd Street, New York City, New York, United States
Coordinates40°46′12″N 73°58′50″W / 40.7701°N 73.9806°W / 40.7701; -73.9806
Construction started1906
Inaugurated1909
Demolished1931
Cost$1,700,000 (budget)
Technical details
Structural systemExterior supporting masonry, internal steel columns and girders
Design and construction
ArchitectCarrère and Hastings
References
Barber, Donn, editor (November 1909). The New York Architect3 (11). New York: Harwell-Evans.

The Century Theatre, originally the New Theatre, was a theatre located at 62nd Street and Central Park West in New York City. Opened on November 6, 1909, it was noted for its fine architecture but due to poor acoustics and an inconvenient location it was financially unsuccessful. The theatre was demolished in 1931 and replaced by the Century Apartments building.

History

New Theatre, 1909
New Theatre, 1909

The New Theatre was once called "New York's most spectacularly unsuccessful theater" in the WPA Guide to New York City. Envisioned in 1906 by Heinrich Conried, a director of the Metropolitan Opera House, its construction was an attempt to establish a great theatre at New York free of commercialism, one that, broadly speaking, would resemble the Comédie Française of Paris. Thirty founders each subscribed $35,000 at the start, and a building designed to be the permanent home of a repertory company was constructed on Central Park West on the Upper West Side at a cost of three million dollars. Architecturally, it was one of the handsomest structures in the city, designed by the prominent Beaux-Arts architectural firm Carrère and Hastings.

With Winthrop Ames as the only director, the New Theatre Company occupied the building for only two seasons, 1909–10 and 1910–11. Capable of seating 2,300 persons, the New Theatre was opened on Saturday, November 6, 1909, with impressive ceremonies and apparently under the most favoring auspices, but a serious defect in the acoustics became apparent at once and this was only partly remedied by the installation of a sound-deflecting bell. The world premiere of Sergei Rachmaninoff's 3rd piano concerto took place on Sunday, November 28, 1909 at the New Theatre, with Rachmaninoff as soloist and Walter Damrosch conducting the New York Symphony Society. Several Shakespearean plays were given, by far the most notable presentation being that of The Winter's Tale. On the whole the company did its best ensemble work in some of the modern plays of that time, like Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird and Sister Beatrice, Galsworthy's Strife, and Edward Sheldon's The Nigger starring Annie Russell. A poetic drama of distinction was Josephine Preston Peabody's The Piper. From Europe in 1912 came Judith Gautier and Pierre Loti, producers and supervisors of The Daughter of Heaven. In most cases the stage settings were of very high quality.

Not long ago an institution which was expected to benefit the Stage and the Public went down in miserable failure, in the collapse of the New Theatre. The Directors of that institution provided 'practically unlimited capital' for the venture, — an aid which Lester Wallack, for one, never had and never dreamed of having. The observer of to-day was able to see at first hand exactly what kind of theatrical company could be formed after a long absence of stock-companies; half a million dollars was lost in the effort, and persons of experience, knowledge, and taste have had an opportunity to see what the much-vaunted 'commercialism' has really done for the American Stage, and how necessary it is that other forces should control it.[1]

The building was located a mile above the Theater District, and it was exceedingly expensive to maintain. Financially, the venture proved to be a boondoggle. At the end of the second season, it was found to be impracticable to plan for a third.[citation needed] The building was leased to other theatre managers, who changed the name to the Century Theatre (1911), the Century Opera House (1913), and the Century once more (1915), with Florenz Ziegfeld as manager.

In 1917, producers Florenz Ziegfeld and Charles Dillingham opened the roof garden as a nightclub and named it the Cocoanut Grove, based on the success of a similar venue, Ziegfeld Midnight Frolic at the New Amsterdam Theatre.[2]

It was of no use. The "Shrine of Snobbism" as a populist New York paper dubbed it (WPA Guide) was demolished in 1930 and the Art Deco Century Apartments, designed by the office of Irwin S. Chanin, rose on the site in 1931.[3]

Publications

Consult The New Theatre (New York, 1909), which gives the names of founders, officers, etc., with biographical sketches and portraits of the company, and The New Theatre, Season 1909–10 (New York, 1910), for titles of plays, dates of production, casts, etc. Both the foregoing were privately circulated by the management. Consult also the magazines of 1909–11, especially W. P. Eaton, in the Atlantic Monthly, volume cv (Boston, 1910), and John Corbin, in the World's Work, volume xxii (Garden City, New York, 1911).

Gallery

Proscenium and curtain
Proscenium and curtain
Auditorium
Auditorium
Main vestibule
Main vestibule
Staircases
Staircases
Foyer-level circulation
Foyer-level circulation
Main foyer
Main foyer
Foyer ceiling, central panel
Foyer ceiling, central panel
Foyer ceiling, secondary panel
Foyer ceiling, secondary panel
Foyer door
Foyer door
Ground floor plan
Ground floor plan
Rooftop Garden Pavilion
Rooftop Garden Pavilion
Poster case
Poster case

References

  1. ^ William Winter, The Wallet of Time. Moffat, Yard and Company, New York 1913, vol. 1, p. 36.
  2. ^ "The Century Roof Opens Its Doors," New York Times (Jan. 20, 1917).
  3. ^ "Casino de Paris – New York, NY | IBDB". www.ibdb.com. Retrieved January 6, 2021.

External links

This page was last edited on 30 March 2021, at 16:36
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