513 9th Street NW,
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The Gayety Theatre was opened in 1907, designed by architect William H. McElfatrick. Its exterior was a mix of Beaux-Arts and neoclassical styles. Its facade was framed by two sets of columns, which supported a large arch covered with terra-cotta decor. The three-story building’s auditorium was an equally ornate Edwardian music hall, complete with gilded plasterwork and an asbestos fire curtain painted with pastoral scenes. The auditorium held two balconies and four sets of boxes. The interior of the Gayety was very similar in style to that of the Bushwick Theatre in Brooklyn that McElfatrick would design a few years later.
Originally, the Gayety was a burlesque and vaudeville house, though not the burlesque of the 40s and 50s. This earlier form of burlesque was closer to comic acts than the striptease of the better-known later form. While the Gayety later began to show movies as well, it would only remain a secondary form of entertainment for the entire course of the theater’s history, which, by the 40s, would include the later form of burlesque.
In 1950, the Gayety became the Shubert Theatre upon its acquisition by the Shubert organization, and switched to legitimate theatre. It would remain so until it was closed almost ten years later. The Shubert, while still in good shape, was unfortunately demolished in 1960 to make way for a parking lot.
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