apollo theater in NYC

Iconic Building Signs of New York City: The Apollo Theater

Another of the widely recognized and highly venerated building signs in New York City, the Apollo Theater‘s neo-Classical Illuminated Neon sign represents one of Americas most iconic entertainment establishments. Located in the storied Harlem neighborhood, the Apollo was declared an official New York City landmark in 1983 and has become a veritable, near century old¬† institution in the world of American music, theater and entertainment.

Built in 1914, and designed by George Keister, the theater was originally named the Hurtig & Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater and only¬†became the Apollo in 1934. The roaring 60’s was by far the theaters most successful decade, however, the growing drug problem in Harlem, with its attendant robberies and thefts, was the cause of its closing in 1976, after an 8-year-old boy was shot to death. In the decades that followed the theater fell into disrepair and it wasn’t until 2001, when the architecture firm of Beyer Blinder Belle was contracted for the theaters restoration, that repairs began.

The Apollo grew to prominence during the Harlem Renaissance, billing itself as a place “where stars are born and legends are made”. The Apollo became famous for launching the careers of artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, who made her singing debut at 17 at the Apollo, on November 21, 1934. Fitzgerald’s performances pulled in a weekly audience at the Apollo and she won the opportunity to compete in one of the earliest of its “Amateur Nights”. She had originally intended to go on stage and dance, but intimidated by the Edwards Sisters, a local dance duo, she opted to sing instead. She sang Hoagy Carmichael’s “Judy” and “The Object of My Affection” and won first prize (a whopping grand total of $25.00).

An estimated 1.3 million people visit the Apollo annually.