Hammerstein's

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Hammerstein's Victoria and Roof Garden was a theater in New York City built by Oscar Hammerstein at the corner of 42nd St and 7th Ave.
Hammerstein's Victoria and Roof Garden postcard from 1912

Hammerstein's Victoria opened in 1899 as a theater. In 1904 it was turned into a variety theatre and became the leading Vaudeville house in New York City until the Palace Theatre was built.

It had an indoor theater (which held 1000) and a roof top theater that allowed for summer performances (since air conditioning was not available at the time). The "Roof Garden" encompassed the roof of it's theater and the Republic Theatre next door (also built by Hammerstein but was leased out.)

A few of the acts that performed at Hammerstein's include: Eva Fay (daughter of Anna Eva Fay), Mae West, W.C. Fields, Charlie Chaplin, Eva Tanguay, Evelyn Nesbitt, the Four Cohans, Emil Jarrow, Frank Van Hoven and Houdini.

Houdini may have been one of the last big named acts to play Hammerstein's Victoria, as in 1915 the theater was torn down. The competition from the new Palace Theatre down the street drew many patrons away from the old Hammerstein's.[1]

Houdini at Hammerstein's

Hammerstein's plays an important roll in the career of Houdini. In 1912, Houdini was the headliner on the bill. Also on that same bill from Jan 29-Feb 3 was comedian and satirist Will Rogers. A few months later in July, 1912 Houdini was back and to promote his appearance he presented an outdoor escape. Reports say he was tied to the tower of the Heidelberg Building in Times Square. The Heidelberg Building stood at 1459 Broadway and was renamed the Crossroads Building and eventually torn down in 1984. Today, the Times Square Tower stands at that location.

During that same month, Houdini was using his overboard packing case escape from the East River to promote his appearances at Hammerstein's Victoria. He was also able to do the feat in the theater because a previous act had a large tank of water and Houdini used it to recreate his underwater packing escape.

In 1914 Houdini debuted is Walking Through a Brick Wall Illusion at Hammerstein's which was written up in the Variety Newspaper on July 18, 1914.

Jarrow at Hammerstein's

In March, 1910, Emil Jarrow debuted at Hammerstein's with a stand-up comedy magic act featuring his original Bill in Lemon routine. The theatrical newspaper, The New York Clipper, in reviewing Jarrow's act, lauded: “A new star has arisen in the magical world in the person of Jarrow, the comic conjurer, upon whose shoulders the mantle of Imro Fox has deservedly fallen. …He kept his audience in continuous laughter and wonderment at his quaint, witty patter and most wonderful tricks, all performed without the use of any visible apparatus.” Jarrow was such a hit that he was booked to appear again at Hammerstein's during the summer of 1910 where he appeared for an amazing 27 straight weeks. after starring in vaudeville both in the U.S. and Europe, Jarrow returned to Hammersteins's for another long run in the fall of 1914, a few months before the theater closed. [2]

References

  1. http://deancarnegie.blogspot.com/2011/01/hammersteins-victoria-and-rooftop.html
  2. Jarrow: The Humorist Trickster by David Charvet. 2013.
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