Academy of Music

125 East 14th Street,
New York, NY 10003

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New York City’s first Academy of Music spanned two centuries, opening wih grand opera in 1854 and being operated by William Fox from 1910 until demolition in 1926. The original seating capacity was reported as 4,000, but after a serious fire in 1866, the theatre went through a series of rebuildings and renovations that gradually reduced it to about 2,500.

When William Fox first took over the Academy’s lease, he presented only stage plays with a resident stock company. As soon as feature-length movies became the vogue, Fox switched to films, supporting them with vaudeville to counter fierce competition from neighboring theatres. Fox also moved the entrance from Gramercy Place to 14th Street, which provided more space and better visibilty for the marquee and other electric signs.

When the Consolidated Gas Company purchased the site for an addition to its nearby headquarters, William Fox built a new theatre directly opposite at 126 E. 14th Street and named it in honor of the demolished Academy of Music. The second Academy met a similar fate, being demolished in 1997 for another of NYU’s student dormitories in the area.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 28, 2007 at 8:22 am

Here are two images, the first with the original entrance on Gramercy Place and the second with the final one on 14th Street:
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/aom001.jpg
www.i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/aom16.jpg

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on October 29, 2007 at 7:37 am

The first Academy of Music was the most prestigious theatre for opera in New York prior to the opening of the first Metropolitan Opera House. It’s listed in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. At that time it was under the direction of E.G. Gilmore and Eugene Tompkins. The latter was also director of the Boston Theatre on Washington Street in Boston. Admission prices ranged from 25 cents to $1.50. Seating capacity: Orchestra- 498; Orchestra Circle- 436; Balcony- 508; Second Balcony- 150; Gallery- 518; Total: 2,110. The theatre had both gas and electric illumination. The proscenium opening was 44 feet wide X 40 feet high, and the stage was 66 feet deep. There were 15 in the house orchestra. In Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper of Feb. 21, 1880, there is an interior drawing made during the Masquerade Ball of the Liederkranz. That drawing, showing the very elaborate interior, plus an exterior photo shot around 1865, are in the book “The Liederkranz of New York, 1848-1948” published in NY in 1948.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on October 29, 2007 at 8:02 am

The Academy of Music closed forever with a gala “farewell” performance on May 17th, 1926, by which time its new namesake was nearing completion. A long and detailed report can be found in the New York Times of 5/18/26. I would be happy to send a copy to anyone contacting me privately at .com

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on November 2, 2007 at 5:57 am

Movies were shown at the Academy of Music as early as 1897, when films of recent boxing matches were projected via the Veriscope system, according to Terry Ramsaye’s “A Million and One Nights,” an industry history published in 1926, the same year that the AOM was demolished. Recalling its original dedication to classical music and drama, Ramsaye wrote that “For many years, the Academy of Music has been a motion picture theatre, a sort of withered crone, flamboyant with garish electric garlands in the tragic gaiety of a desperate old age. The queen, deposed, is a rag picker now.”

jflundy
jflundy on March 8, 2008 at 8:30 am

A large scale photo of this theater taken during a blizzard in January of 1908 is shown at this site:
http://www.shorpy.com/node/2950?size=_original

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