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Historic Tammany Hall's Union Square Theatre To Be Demolished


Those who learn American history from Broadway musicals know that in Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, Jerome Weidman and George Abbott Pulitzer Prize-winner FIORELLO!, the success of little-known Republican congressional candidate and future mayor of New York, Fiorello LaGuardia , helps bring down New York's highly influential and corrupt Democratic Party political machine known as Tammany Hall.

The Tammany Society has called many halls its home since founded in 1789, but the one that remains is the landmarked four-story red brick and limestone building on southeast corner of Union Square and E. 17th Street, which made its debut on July 4th 1929.

In recent decades the hall's auditorium served as Off-Broadway's Union Square Theatre, housing such notable productions as WIT, THE LARAMIE PROJECT, BAT BOY and JITNEY. From 1985-1991 it was the home of the Roundabout Theatre Company.

But, as reported by the New York Times, the venue's days as a theatre are over. The building's owner, Liberty Theaters L.L.C., is reconstructing the building to be a six-story office building, which will be marketed as 44 Union Square. The auditorium will be demolished, with a two-and-half-story glass dome erected on the rooftop. The project, costing $50 million, is to be completed in two years.

"We tried to preserve the theater," says Margaret Cotter, President of Liberty Theatres, "But we couldn't come up with a program that was economically viable."

As reported by the Times, the auditorium was "ablaze with color" for its 1929 Independence Day opening, adorned with numerous flags to welcome New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and former Governor Alfred E. Smith. They shared the stage with the city's mayor, "Gentleman" Jimmy Walker, the last high-ranking city official to occupy Tammany's pocket.

Joseph V. McKee served as interim mayor after Walker resigned when faced with a criminal investigation, and LaGuardia's subsequent election meant the end of Tammany Hall's power. In 1943, the building was sold to Local 91 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

Click here for the full article.

The theatre closed on January 3rd with the final performance of a return engagement of Patrick Barlow's Alfred Hitchcock spoof 39 STEPS, where four actors portrayed over 150 characters in a madcap mystery adventure.

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From This Author Michael Dale