Harlem Opera House
211 W. 125th Street,
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Previously operated by: Keith-Albee, Proctor's
Architects: John Bailey McElfatrick
Previous Names: Keith & Proctor's Harlem Opera House
Oscar Hammerstein I opened the Harlem Opera House in 1889, his first New York theater. It was designed by architect John B. McElfatrick, who designed numerous late-19th century theaters around New York and the country. Among those who performed on its stage during its early years included Edwin Booth, Lillian Russell and Sophie Tucker.
The Opera House was located on the same stretch of 125th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues as the Victoria Theatre and the Hurtig & Seamon’s Music Hall (after 1934 renamed the Apollo Theatre).
Around 1900 it became Keith & Proctor’s Harlem Opera House, and this lasted until 1911 when the partnership was dissolved. From then into the early-1920’s, the Harlem Opera House was part of the Keith-Albee vaudeville circuit. In 1922, it was taken over by Frank Schiffman, who previously operated the LaFayette Theatre on 135th Street, and who later took over the Apollo Theatre.
For many years the Opera House presented big name jazz acts on stage, and motion pictures on screen.
It closed long ago, and the building which once housed the Opera House has since been demolished.
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Recent comments (view all 17 comments)
The Harlem Opera House is listed in the 1897-98 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide. B. Lichtenstein is listed as the “sole prop.” Admission prices ranged from 25 cents to $1.50. The seating was : Orchestra: 553, Balcony: 402, Gallery: 600; total: 1,555 seats. The proscenium opening was 32 feet wide x 36 feet high; the stage was 39 feet deep. The theatre was on the ground floor, had both electric and gas illumination, and had 10 members in the house orchestra.
Does anyone know where I can view that 1949 photograph of 125th Street that Bryan Krefft mentioned? I tried to view it through the link provided but was unable to. Any information that can be provided would be greatly appreciated.
The 1930 Red Book Guide for Manhattan and the Bronx list the Harlem Opera as a Loew’s house.
In 1922, the Victoria is listed at 233 W.125th Street, seating 2463. Hurtig & Seamens New Theater seating 1863 is listed on W.125th near 8th Avenue.
My late grandfather, Harry Hinkel, grew up in a living area behind the old Harlem Opera House, sometime between 1904 (his birth year) and the 1920’s when he left New York. His mother ran a boarding house in the space, and his father was the opera house electrician. I have no evidence or photos of anything to back this up, only stories from my grandfather. It would be great to learn more about this! Thanks!
Still listed as open in the 1953 Film Daily Yearbook.
Still listed as open in the 1959 Film Daily Yearbook and operated by Leo Brecher.
ccording to the Google Maps, the Harlem Opera House’s address is a little bit down to the east from where the Apollo and Victoria are located. There is no sign of the building now- a modern building is on the site. The Apollo and Victoria are right next door to each other; in fact, the Apollo’s auditorium goes off to the right from the lobby, and the Victoria’s goes to the left, so the back of their respective stage houses are butting up against each other.
search harlem…proctor’s 125th, and harlem opera house among others…
the marquee of the bowling alley after conversion
Circa 1950 photo added courtesy of Cenk Urganci. Victoria and Apollo in the background.