The Apollo Theatre
253 West 125th Street
The Apollo Theatre originally opened as Hurtig and Seamon's New Burlesque Theatre in 1913. The theatre was purchased by Bill Minsky in 1928 and renamed the 125th Street Apollo Theater. The design by George Keister and Adamesque decor is fairly unremarkable, but the historic value of the theatre lies in its heritage as the launching point for the careers of a number of very significant 20th-century African-American performers. The catalyst was the decision in 1934 of Ralph Cooper, Sr. to do a live version of his radio program, Amateur Nite Hour, live from the Apollo. Later Amateur Night winners included Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Lauryn Hill. The theatre also hosted performances by most of the significant jazz artists of the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
As with so many other theatres around the country, The Apollo fell into decline during the 1960s and 1970s. It was granted landmark status in 1983 and reopened in 1985. The theatre was purchased by the State of New York in 1991.
When James Brown passed away in December of 2006, he lay in state at the Apollo.