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Built in 1912 for William Fox’s fledgling film company, the Audubon Theatre & adjoining ballroom was designed by Thomas W. Lamb. The auditorium was on the main floor at the southern end of the building, while the ballroom was upstairs on the northern end of the building.
Known for its spectacular polychrome-terra cotta facade. In a lunette over the main entrance is a beautiful depiction of a ship’s prow, with the head of Neptune over it. By December 1945 it had been renamed Beverly Hills Theatre playing movies and vaudeville programs. It went back to the Audubon Theatre name and was still playing vaudeville & movies in November 1948.
By May 1949 it was renamed New San Juan Theatre and went over to a Spanish language films policy plus a stage show. By 1949 it was the San Juan Theatre and had programs of American movies dubbed into Spanish.
Long a center of culture and entertaiment, the Audubon Ballroom is still best-known today as the place where Malcolm X was assasinated in 1965 while giving a speech.
During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the building fell into disuse and disrepair, until it was acquired by Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in the mid-1990’s.
Rather than completely raze the historic landmark, the facade along W. 165th Street was preserved, while a new structure erected behind it, where the Audubon Theatre had stood. Known today as the Malcolm X and Dr Betty Shabazz Education & Research Center. Inside the center is a memorial to Malcolm X. Some parts of the Audubon Ballroom still remain in some sort of use.
The ornate terra-cotta facade was meticulously restored and brought back to its 1910’s appearance, making it quite an eye-catching sight.
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