Tag Archives: Thomas W. Lamb

Audubon Ballroom

Audubon Ballroom, built as a theater, played many roles during its century-long career. The colorful Broadway facade is all that is left of the original Audubon Theatre and Ballroom, aka Beverly Hills Theater, aka San Juan Theater.

Originally, the building contained a 2,500-seat theater and, on the second floor, a 200-guest ballroom. It was commissioned by William Fox (20th Century Fox) – which explains the terra cotta fox heads.

Audubon Ballroom was used for vaudeville and for motion pictures; later, union and political groups held meetings there. A congregation of German Jews held its services in the basement – and eventually bought the building in 1950. Malcolm X used the venue for meetings of his Organization of Afro-American Unity starting in 1964. It was here, on February 21, 1965, that Malcolm X was assassinated. In the 1960s and ’70s, the then-named San Juan Theater showcased Latino films.

New York City had taken possession of the building in 1967, for non-payment of taxes. After the San Juan Theater closed in 1980 the building began to deteriorate. In 1989 Columbia University made a deal with the city to demolish the building and build a medical research facility. Community activists, preservationists and even Columbia University students fought the plan, eventually winning a compromise that preserved a portion of the Broadway facade and the second-floor ballroom. Meanwhile, the Mary Woodard Lasker Biomedical Research Building rose six stories on the site of the former theater.

The lobby and second floor now houses the The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. A bank, a restaurant, a cafe, and a book store occupy other street-level spaces.

Audubon Ballroom Vital Statistics
Audubon Ballroom Recommended Reading

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The Pythian

The Pythian is historic, and eye candy – but “hidden” in its mid-block location. It’s definitely worth the detour if you’re in the neighborhood of Broadway at W 70th Street.

The Pythian (condominiums), originally Pythian Temple, was built for the Knights of Pythias on West 70th Street between Columbus Avenue and Broadway, in 1927.

Pythian Temple was designed by Thomas W. Lamb in the Egyptian Revival style with bright, colorful glazed terra cotta at street level; even grander decoration graced the building’s top floors.

As the Knights of Pythias declined in popularity, its building found other uses. Decca Records had a studio here in the ’40s and ’50s; the New York Institute of Technology bought the building for its main campus in 1958.

In 1983 the structure was converted to condominium apartments. In the process, the formerly windowless floors of the middle section (all but the topmost setback) were glazed over. (See the Times’ slideshow to view the original facade.) Also see architect David Gura’s portfolio page for the project, with before/after and cutaway views.

The Pythian’s most famous (former) resident was Stefani Germanotta – aka Lady Gaga.

The Pythian Vital Statistics
  • Location: 135 W 70th Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenue
  • Year completed: 1927
  • Architect: Thomas W. Lamb (original); David Gura (1986 conversion)
  • Floors: 8
  • Style: Egyptian Revival
  • New York City Landmark: 1990 (part of Upper West Side/Central Park West Historic District)
The Pythian Suggested Reading

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