Walking down 6th Avenue (or the Avenue of the Americas), one might not miss the monumental Radio City Music hall, New York. It is an entertainment venue located in Manhattan. The elegant architecture and the theatre’s grandeur have attracted more than 300 million people over the years. 

Keep reading to know about the ten incredible things you didn’t know about Radio City Music hall, New York.

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1. A collaboration of a philanthropist, entertaining company, and an impresario

After the Great Depression slammed the dreams of building the Metropolitan Opera house, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. envisioned creating a grand theatre that would act as a cornerstone of the Rockefeller Center. He joined hands with Radio Corporation of America (RCA), attracting huge audiences with their Radio programs.

The final and vital addition to the partnership was impresario S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel, who introduced movie palaces to NYC.

He produced many successful shows and was interested in the project to revive the theatres of America.

2. Ideas of “Roxy”

From his unraveled expertise in theatre designs, Roxy contributed diverse ideas for the planning of the theatre. Roxy insisted on designing the Music hall with 6,200 seats. He specified mechanical equipment, lighting system, high ceiling for the foyer, and auditorium layout.

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3. The unknown interior designer and the American architect

The architect of the Music hall was Edward Durell Stone, and Donald Sidney Deskey designed the interiors. Despite the music hall’s tremendous spatial planning, everyone talked about Art Deco-styled interiors. Ironically, Deskey came to light only after winning the competition for designing Radio City music hall in the 1930s.

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4. Art Deco style

Donald Deskey designed more than thirty separate spaces, including eight lounges and smoking rooms, each with its motif. Deskey himself selected artists, textile designers, craftsmen for decorating the interiors. He also brilliantly amalgamated precious metals such as gold, silver with industrial materials like Bakelite, Permatex, aluminum, and cork. In addition to this, he used rococo ornamentation to break the monotony. Deskey’s legacy has been carried through the years by the Radio city music hall. “It has been said of the new Music Hall that it needs no performers.”

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5. Planning

The entrance of the Music hall consists of small lobbies and compact ticket booths. As we go further, the lobbies contrast with the elliptical grand foyer decorated with chandeliers and mural paintings. Impressive staircases lead up to the mezzanine floors from the foyer. The mezzanine lobbies are, in turn, connected to the curved extension of the balconies. The grand foyer’s northern and southern vestibule is used as an exit lobby and emergency exit, respectively.

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6. Hydraulic elevators

The vast stage was designed to have a central revolving section, composed of three units that may move independently. The three areas are mounted on hydraulic-powered elevators designed by Peter Clark and executed by Otis elevators. These units facilitate changes in scenery.

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7. Lighting systems

The auditorium of the Music hall has indirect cove lighting facing the audience, resembling the setting sun as envisaged by Roxy. The lighting system was so advanced that the lights automatically changed colors and adjusted their brightness based on different theatre lighting levels. Architectural critic Douglas Haskell describes the ceiling light as “northern lights.”

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8. Records

Apart from being the largest indoor theatre, this music hall has set some other records during its construction. One of them is the use of 15,000 miles (24,000 km) of copper wire and 200 miles (320 km) of brass pipe. The theatre once hosted the world’s largest orchestra. U.S Navy incorporated a similar hydraulic elevators system in the stage for WWII aircraft carriers. The theatre also had the world’s largest stage during completion.

9. Demolition

Even with the impressive architecture, the music hall was not able to attract the needed audience. By January 1978, the projected loss of $3.5 million for that upcoming year led to the music hall’s closure announcement. Plans were made to put the building to an alternative use such as tennis courts, a shopping mall, an aquarium, a hotel, a theme park, or the American Stock Exchange.

10. Landmark Designation 

Lieutenant Governor Mary Anne Krupsak created a rescue committee of laborers, cultural group representatives, artists, and other people to save the theatre. Efforts were made to obtain landmark designation for the theatre to prevent demolition. On March 28, 1978, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the Radio City Music Hall a landmark. The New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) intervened to take over its management for a trial period. After minimizing the financial losses, the Radio City Music Hall was returned to Rockefeller Center. The Radio City Music hall was finally reopened in 1980. Since then, with slight renovations, Radio City music hall has hosted many award functions, world premieres, and inaugural functions, thereby running successfully.

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References:

  • https://www.rockettes.com/the-history-of-radio-city-music-hall/
  • https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/radio-city-music-hall-opens
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_City_Music_Hall#Construction,_opening,_and_early_years
  • https://www.newyorkerhotel.com/blog/fun-facts-about-radio-city-music-hall/
  • https://www.nypap.org/preservation-history/radio-city-music-hall/
  • http://s-media.nyc.gov/agencies/lpc/lp/0995.pdf
  • https://www.msg.com/radio-city-music-hall/history#:~:text=Radio%20City%20Music%20Hall%20is,a%20height%20of%2084%20feet.
  • https://www.archdaily.com/792104/ad-classics-radio-city-music-hall-edward-durell-stone-and-donald-deskey
Author

Abirami is an introverted final year architecture student who expresses her views through words. She is passionate about trying new things and journalism is one of them. She aspires to be an urban planner in the future. Her motto is "Be the change you want to see."

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