225 West 44th StreetNew York, NY
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Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
David Hyde Pierce
Chairman and Co-CEO, Shubert Organization
Built in 1913, shortly before World War I, the Shubert Theater was built as a companion to the Booth.
Constructed by Lee and Jacob J. Shubert as the headquarters of their theatrical empire, it was named after their brother Sam S. Shubert, who died prematurely at age twenty-six in a railroad accident. Henry B. Herts’s designs for the Shubert and the Booth were carefully integrated even though their purposes were entirely different; the Booth was a small and intimate house for dramas and the Shubert, which could seat almost twice as many patrons, was designed for large musicals and had much more flamboyant interior decoration. The Shubert also contained two floors of offices above the theater, which continue to be used by the Shubert organization. Herts designed the theater in a Venetian Renaissance style with modern adaptations: heavy rusticated terra-cotta pilasters and arches and a curving corner entrance pavilion facing Broadway. At the time, building laws prohibited the projection of any part of the structure beyond the building line, so Herts cleverly used the sgraffito technique for ornamentation; several layers of colored cement were carved to create figured decorative panels. It is one of the few surviving examples of this decorative technique in New York City. The Shubert has always operated as a legitimate theater. It survived the Depression. and the great Depression-era song “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” debuted at the theater in 1933. Since then the Shubert has presented Pulitzer Prize–winning productions including Idiot’s Delight in 1936 and A Chorus Line, which opened in 1975 and played for fifteen years.
Henry B. Herts was known as a technical innovator and inventive designer. Born in New York, he was the son of Henry B. Herts of the Herts Brothers firm of decorators. He originally went to City College but left before graduation to work in the office of architect Bruce Price.
Herts eventually graduated from Columbia University in 1893 then traveled to Europe to study architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts and the universities of Rome and Heidelberg. Herts is best known for his partnership with Hugh Tallant. Although, Herts & Tallant were well-known theater architects, the partnership dissolved in 1912, and Herts continued designing with his assistant Herbert J. Krapp and on his own. Herts pioneered the use of steel cantilevers to eliminate the problem of blocked sightlines from pillars supporting the balcony. He also served as architect for the Playground Commission of New York City and helped improve fire codes.
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Samuel J. Friedman