254 W. 42nd Street,
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Comic acting team Lew Fields and Joe Weber closed their music hall on 26th Street in 1904 after nearly a decade and were given a new theatre by their employer, Oscar Hammerstein, after their enormous success playing the Victoria Theatre.
Located on W. 42nd Street, adjacent to the American Theatre of 1893, the new Lew M. Fields Theatre was designed by Philadelphia architect Albert E. Westover. It could seat about 770 and was best known for its tiered boxes on each side of the proscenium arch, which could seat over 20. It was also one of the earliest Broadway theatres which contained a fire-prevention system, complete with a pair of 5,000-gallon water tanks on the roof, in response to the Iroquois Theatre tragedy in Chicago a year earlier, which killed hundreds of theatre-goers.
The Lew M. Fields Theatre opened December 5, 1904 with a highly successful musical comedy “It Happened in Nordland” that ran half a year, but afterwards, Fields sold the theatre to actor/producer James K. Hackett, who named the theatre for himself.
In 1911, William B. Harris took over the theatre, and, of course, it was renamed again for him. Showman H.H. Frazee ran the theatre from 1920 until 1922 under his name, but in 1924, its newest name, Wallack’s Theatre, was after a long-gone mid-19th century theatre.
In 1930, after 25 years of legitimate theatre use, Wallack’s Theatre was converted into a movie house, which meant that its simple-yet-graceful turn-of-the-century decor was mostly torn out, including the boxes, dressing rooms and its stage sealed off.
A decade later, renamed the Anco Theatre, the theatre was operated by the Cinema Circuit Corp. chain. It was further vandalized by the removal of one of its two balconies, and its Beaux-Arts facade hacked off. For another nearly half century, the box-like theatre served as a movie house, before being shuttered in 1988, when its interior was totally gutted for retail use.
In 1997, in the wake of the redevelopment of W. 42nd Street, the former theatre was razed.
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