Hudson Theatre

141 W. 44th Street,
New York, NY 10036

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In 1903, Henry B. Harris opened the Hudson Theatre on 44th Street, becoming the first producer to build a playhouse on that street (its side entrance, on 45th Street, was originally for the use of actors only).

Built in a then-mostly residential neighborhood, the four-story theatre, with its fairly simple Italian Renaissance style facade, was anything but simple inside. A mix of several styles popular around the turn-of-the-century, including Beaux-Arts, Neo-Classical, and Neo-Renaissance, the Hudson Theatre was nothing short of stunning to its first patrons.

The auditorium could seat about 1,100, which included a pair of balconies and two sets of boxes on either side of the proscenium arch. The Hudson Theatre was liberally decorated with Roman-themed works, including friezes copied from Nero’s Golden House and the Baths of Titus over the proscenium and lining the walls of the lobby, respectively. Also, Tiffany glass covered the dome of the lobby ceiling and also faced the upper boxes and lower balcony.

Its black marble box office was decorated with bronze heads of the god Mercury as well as bronze trim around the window decorated in a floral theme.

The Hudson Theatre opened with a play starring Ethel Barrymore, which only ran a few weeks, but within a few years, the theatre began to have a number of successes, becoming one of the city’s premier playhouses.

Harris himself died on the Titanic, but his wife, who was among the last rescued, went on to run the Hudson Theatre herself until being forced to sell it during the Depression.

In 1934, the CBS network purchased the vacant theatre, and used it as a radio studio. However, by 1937, it had returned to legitimate use again, and a few years later, playwrights Russell Crouse and Howard Lindsay purchased the Hudson Theatre. In 1950, after a pair of successful long runs (“Arsenic and Old Lace” and “State of the Union”) the theatre was sold to NBC for use as a television studio. Among the many classic shows broadcast from the Hudson was “The Tonight Show”.

In 1959 NBC spent over $100,000 restoring the Hudson Theatre to its original appearance, and it was given back over to legitimate theatre use, though the network continued to own the Hudson Theatre until 1962.

During the 1960’s, the Hudson Theatre frequently was dark, and even more frequently threatened with demolition, but live performances continued on and off until 1968, when it was acquired by the Avon chain of pornographic theatres, which continued to run it until 1976, as the Avon-at-the-Hudson. After adult fare, the theatre became just another second-run movie house, but only briefly, since by the end of the decade, it was closed.

Reopened in 1980 after a remodeling as the Savoy, a nightclub and venue for rock concerts, it never became popular and closed after a few years. During the mid-1980’s, the stage was used by developers to hold a full-sized model of a luxury condominium for a short time.

Fortunately for the Hudson Theatre, in 1987, the Landmarks Commission declared both its interior and exterior a landmark, thus when Harry Macklowe built a large hotel next door to the theatre, it could not be razed, so the former theatre was incorporated into the hotel, for use as a conference center and venue for special events, as it continues to be used today, recently refurbished to its 1903 appearance by its current owners, the Millennium Hotel Broadway.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 38 comments)

robboehm
robboehm on October 10, 2010 at 3:38 am

What a wonderful site and history of the theatre and Elvis, too. I was in the Hudson for a performance of Toys in the Attic and it was just a gray lady at that time. I wonder if they let you peak into the theatre now when nothing is going on. It looks spectacular.

wally 75
wally 75 on March 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Is this the Hudson they used on last sundays Trump show?

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 13, 2012 at 5:59 am

Here’s a porn-era pic that was mistakenly posted to the Henry Miller’s Theatre page.

robboehm
robboehm on June 13, 2012 at 7:21 am

Not accessing, Ed. Says the page I’m looking for doesn’t exist.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on June 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Hey robboehm. Looks like the CT user who posted it, removed the image. I had mentioned on the Henry Miller page that it should be re-posted here. They’ll probably upload it correctly soon enough.

robboehm
robboehm on June 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Don’t bet on it.

Ian
Ian on March 15, 2013 at 2:13 am

Two photos of the interior of the Hudson before the recent renovation took place:–

HUDSON THEATRE – view to stage

HUDSON THEATRE – view from stage

wally 75
wally 75 on March 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I love photos like that…thanks

Stephen Paley
Stephen Paley on June 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm

In 1959, when NBC stopped using the Hudson for broadcasting, they did not move their operations to Los Angeles, as it says in the CT description of the Hudson above. The network always had a presence on the west coast, but the Tonight! show with Jack Paar at the time, was moved to NBC’s Studio 6B in New York’s Rockefeller Center, where it stayed until the mid 70s when Johnny Carson moved the show to Burbank. NBC’s headquarters were always in New York, at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where they still are located, including many of their television studios.

Hawkshead71
Hawkshead71 on July 23, 2014 at 10:27 am

In recent years, through the intrepid genealogical research of my sister Ada I discovered that a grandfather I never knew was an actor and among various parts was the stage manager for and actor in the role of Andy Oatman in George M Cohan’s production of “The Meanest Man in the World”, which opened at the Hudson, October 12, 1920 and closed in April of 1921 after 202 performances. Cohan himself portrayed the character Richard Clarke. In a review of the play in The New York Tribune of October 13, 1920. The supporting cast was given high marks and my grandfather Howard Boulden(stage name)was noted for a singularly good characterization of the country store clerk. How strange to discover in my senior years this world that I never knew. His daughter by his second marriage to Agnes Evans, broadway and burlesque star, Alice Boulden was a nightclub and broadway musical star of the 1920’s. My siblings and I only knew that my father had a half sister, Alice. She eventually married Joe Cook with whom she co-starred in “Fine and Dandy” in 1930.

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