Harlem Opera House

211 W. 125th Street,
New York, NY 10027

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Additional Info

Previously operated by: Keith-Albee, Proctor's

Architects: John Bailey McElfatrick

Previous Names: Keith & Proctor's Harlem Opera House

Nearby Theaters

Circa 1950 photo courtesy of Cenk Urganci.

Oscar Hammerstein I opened the Harlem Opera House in 1889, his first New York theater. It was designed by architect John B. McElfatrick, who designed numerous late-19th century theaters around New York and the country. Among those who performed on its stage during its early years included Edwin Booth, Lillian Russell and Sophie Tucker.

The Opera House was located on the same stretch of 125th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues as the Victoria Theatre and the Hurtig & Seamon’s Music Hall (after 1934 renamed the Apollo Theatre).

Around 1900 it became Keith & Proctor’s Harlem Opera House, and this lasted until 1911 when the partnership was dissolved. From then into the early-1920’s, the Harlem Opera House was part of the Keith-Albee vaudeville circuit. In 1922, it was taken over by Frank Schiffman, who previously operated the LaFayette Theatre on 135th Street, and who later took over the Apollo Theatre.

For many years the Opera House presented big name jazz acts on stage, and motion pictures on screen.

It closed long ago, and the building which once housed the Opera House has since been demolished.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft, William Gabel

Recent comments (view all 17 comments)

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on November 28, 2006 at 10:03 am

The Harlem Opera House is listed in the 1897-98 edition of Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide. B. Lichtenstein is listed as the “sole prop.” Admission prices ranged from 25 cents to $1.50. The seating was : Orchestra: 553, Balcony: 402, Gallery: 600; total: 1,555 seats. The proscenium opening was 32 feet wide x 36 feet high; the stage was 39 feet deep. The theatre was on the ground floor, had both electric and gas illumination, and had 10 members in the house orchestra.

nia10026 on August 23, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Does anyone know where I can view that 1949 photograph of 125th Street that Bryan Krefft mentioned? I tried to view it through the link provided but was unable to. Any information that can be provided would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you

jflundy on October 4, 2008 at 4:48 pm

The 1930 Red Book Guide for Manhattan and the Bronx list the Harlem Opera as a Loew’s house.

In 1922, the Victoria is listed at 233 W.125th Street, seating 2463. Hurtig & Seamens New Theater seating 1863 is listed on W.125th near 8th Avenue.

chinkel on January 9, 2009 at 1:43 am

My late grandfather, Harry Hinkel, grew up in a living area behind the old Harlem Opera House, sometime between 1904 (his birth year) and the 1920’s when he left New York. His mother ran a boarding house in the space, and his father was the opera house electrician. I have no evidence or photos of anything to back this up, only stories from my grandfather. It would be great to learn more about this! Thanks!

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on February 12, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Still listed as open in the 1953 Film Daily Yearbook.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on March 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Still listed as open in the 1959 Film Daily Yearbook and operated by Leo Brecher.

spectrum on May 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

ccording to the Google Maps, the Harlem Opera House’s address is a little bit down to the east from where the Apollo and Victoria are located. There is no sign of the building now- a modern building is on the site. The Apollo and Victoria are right next door to each other; in fact, the Apollo’s auditorium goes off to the right from the lobby, and the Victoria’s goes to the left, so the back of their respective stage houses are butting up against each other.

iatse311 on July 21, 2010 at 11:35 am

search harlem…proctor’s 125th, and harlem opera house among others…

iatse311 on March 3, 2011 at 1:02 pm

View link
the marquee of the bowling alley after conversion

DavidZornig on October 7, 2015 at 2:53 pm

Circa 1950 photo added courtesy of Cenk Urganci. Victoria and Apollo in the background.

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