20 October 2008

Nederlander Theatre Not Built as Theatre, It Turns Out

For as long an anyone can remember, City histories have pointed to the Nederlander Theatre on 41st Street as having begun life as a theatre in 1921 and remaining one ever since, though under various names (the National, the Trafalgar, the Billy Rose).

But now that long-running hit "Rent" has cleared out and the theatre is gearing up for a big renovation to clear out all the faux-distressed design elements that were brought in 1996 to give the place an East Village feel, experts are finally discovering that the Nederlander used to be something else.

James A. Boese, a vice president for the Nederlander chain of nine Broadway theaters,
and the president of the League of Historic American Theatres, told the Star-Ledger that the he had uncovered documents that proved the building underwent a big alteration in 1920, and before that was a "3 sty nonfp (non-fireproof) brick Carpenter's shop and storage, club rooms, shower, apts and tennis court." "An estimated $175,000 conversion added the stagehouse, proscenium, mezzanine and other theatrical necessities, including the fire escape," wrote the Star-Ledger.

Carpenter's shop and club rooms? Talk about mixed use.

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