Eugene DeRosa, architect of the Apollo Theatre

posted by derosa on January 12, 2007 at 7:34 am

Eugene DeRosa, architect of the Apollo Theatre, was my uncle, my father’s older brother. He was born in the Calabria region of Italy in 1894. He emigrated to the United States with his parents sometime between 1894 and 1898. They arrived through Ellis Island and settled in New York. The Depression ruined the family fortunes. I do not know what Eugene did after.

My father was born in 1898 in New York. He was named Felix, although he went by the name of Phil. My father also became an architect and worked with his brother Eugene. I would strongly suggest that he also worked on the Apollo, although not to the extent to gain any official credit. During the Depression, he sold insurance for Prudential, returning to practice architecture during the War and after until his death. He settled in Chappaqua, New York, where he met my mother, marrying at the age of 48.

There were three other brothers and a sister. One of the other brothers was my uncle Jerry DeRosa. He had some kind of management position with the Loews State Theatres. My uncle Eugene and my father designed a number of the theaters for that chain along with other theatres in New York during the 1920’s.

Eugene DeRosa died, I believe, in 1942. My uncle Jerry died in 1947. My father died in 1955 just before my seventh birthday.

I do have some contact with Eugene’s son, Robert DeRosa who would be my first cousin and the product of Eugene’s first marriage. There was a second son who died in the 1980’s, I believe. I hope to see Robert this August and learn more. After Eugene’s first wife died in the 1930’s, he remarried and gave birth to a third son, Richard, also my first cousin, whom I have never met.

If anyone reading this knows anything more about Eugene, Phil (Felix), or Jerry DeRosa, I would be extremely appreciative

Fred-Eric DeRosa
1116 Hamilton Street, apt 405
New Westminster
Canada/V3M-2M9
(604) 526-8761

Comments (12)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 12, 2007 at 10:19 am

When I saw the headline, I immediately thought of the world-famous Apollo Theatre on 125th Street in Harlem, which was recently used for memorial services for James Brown. But I think that you mean the Apollo Theatre on West 42nd Street, near Times Square. The Apollo in Harlem was designed by George Keister, but it has undergone many renovations over the decades and I suppose it’s possible that Eugene DeRosa did some work there at one time or another…I believe that your uncle worked as an architect right up until his death. If you use the search engine at this website, you can find listings for many, if not all, of the theatres designed by Eugene DeRosa. My own favorite is Manhattan’s onetime Gallo Opera House, still in use under the name of Studio 54.

derosa
derosa on January 15, 2007 at 9:28 pm

Thank you for your response. Yes, the one name and two theatres were a bit confusing to me when I first looked into my uncle’s accomplishments. I guess back in the 20s, branding wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now. Alas, my uncle was the architect of the less famous Apollo, but it was a thrill to learn that he designed the theatre that went on to become the famed Studio 54. Yes, his list of theatres is impressive. My guess is that my father, too, worked on most of them. They were a team, a fact that I’ve always known.

Someday I hope to see it and others. I also hope to see his son, my cousin, this coming August when I go east for a visit. Apparently, he has lots of pictures and stories, so I expect to learn more about the three DeRosa brothers.

It was a pleasure to hear from you.

Fred DeRosa

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on January 16, 2007 at 7:19 am

Frank, the 42nd Street Apollo is something to be proud of, and was, in the opinion of experts, much more impressive architecturally than the Harlem Apollo, which is mainly revered for its contributions to African-American history. Before switching to movies in the Depression, the 42nd Street Apollo was considered one of the most important of all the “legit” playhouses. You can find a complete list of all the shows that played there at the Broadway Internet Database…And, of course, your uncle’s Colony Theatre was one of New York’s first purpose-built movie palaces, and is still with us as the Broadway Theatre, home to many hit plays over the decades.

StGeorge
StGeorge on March 29, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Your uncle’s Apollo Theatre was combined with the Lyric Theatre to build the Hilton Theatre on 42nd Street in NYC. Many of the original architectural elements were preserved and re-used in the “new” theatre. Eugene also was the architect for the St. George Theatre in Staten Island, NY. This theatre is now reopened and presenting live shows. The theatre is presently being restored to its' former glory and photos of it can be viewed at www.stgeorgetheatre.com If your trip this summer includes NYC, I would be happy to give you a tour of the spectacular St. George Theatre. If your cousin, Robert, has any information to share about the St. George, I would love to hear from him. Any questions, feel free to write!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 30, 2007 at 7:21 am

I recently found that Eugene DeRosa was architect of the theatre listed at Cinema Treasures as the RKO Alden (in Jamaica, Queens). When the theatre first opened in 1928, it was called the Shubert Jamaica, and presented stage plays, some directly from Broadway and others in try-outs. Prior to my discovery, the theatre’s architect had been reported as Herbert J. Krapp.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on March 30, 2007 at 7:22 am

I recently found that Eugene DeRosa was architect of the theatre listed at Cinema Treasures as the RKO Alden (in Jamaica, Queens). When the theatre first opened in 1928, it was called the Shubert Jamaica, and presented stage plays, some directly from Broadway and others in try-outs. Prior to my discovery, the theatre’s architect had been reported as Herbert J. Krapp.

derosa
derosa on March 30, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Dear “St. George”: I just may take you up on your offer to see the St. George Theatre! I will be staying in Mount Kisco August 3-13, available anytime August 5-11. My (twin) sister will also be there at that time; I’m sure she would love to come along. We hope as well to go up to Westfield, Massachusetts, to visit our cousin Robert, Eugene’s son. And thank you, too, Warren, for your additions about the Shubert Jamaica. I’m thrilled to get this news. I don’t know if this kind of responses is acceptable on this site, but I can’t figure out another way to respond. My personal e-mail address is Many thanks to you both.

derosa
derosa on March 30, 2007 at 9:56 pm

I’ve just noticed that the e-mail address in my first entry is incorrect. My correct address is I write for a living, and those inverted letters are the bain of my existence!

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 1, 2007 at 7:53 am

Eugene DeRosa designed two midtown theatres that aren’t listed here because they were playhouses, with slight or no service as cinemas. One was the 780-seat Vanderbilt Theatre, at 148 West 48th Street, which opened in 1918, and the other was the 806-seat Klaw Theatre, at 251 West 45th Street, which opened in 1921. During the Depression, both theatres were converted into radio studios, and in the 1950s were demolished to make way for parking garages.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on April 10, 2007 at 6:42 am

At one of the theatre listings, a contributor wondered if Eugene DeRosa’s Vanderbilt Theatre ever served as a cinema called the Tapia. No! The Vanderbilt’s only service as a cinema was for two months in 1931, when it was re-named the Tobis and showcased films produced by that German studio. The policy proved a financial disaster and the theatre returned to the “legit” fold as the Vanderbilt. It had long served as a radio studio by the time of demolition in 1954. Ironically, the six-story parking garage that replaced the Vanderbilt was designed by another noted theatre architect, Herbert J. Krapp.

StGeorge
StGeorge on April 14, 2007 at 10:59 am

Fred, I just came across an obituary in the New York Times from Oct. 3, 1945. It was for your uncle Jeremiah, (Jerry) who passed on Oct.1, 1945 (not 1947.) He is listed as the brother of Eugene, Felix, Vincent, John, and Sylvia Hoffman. The obituary reads as though all the other siblings were still living at the time of Jeremiah’s death.

derosa
derosa on April 22, 2007 at 9:19 pm

Thank you very much for the information on my Uncle Jerry. I wasn’t the least bit surprised that your information varied from mine. I’m wondering what he died of. By the way, if my father had had his way, I would have been named after Jerry!

My cousin Robert, Eugene’s son, told me that his father died in 1942. I have to believe that Robert is correct, and, despite the wording of the obituary, Eugene was most certainly dead by the time of Jerry’s death. The remaining living siblings were listed in order of birth, although I’m not sure if Jerry was born before or after Vincent.

Again, many thanks for your information. I hope that by the end of the summer and a visit with Robert, I’ll have a much clearer picture of my DeRosa heritage. Your help has been invaluable.

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