The Audubon Ballroom and Theater, located at 3940 Broadway between 165th and 166th Streets, was opened in 1912 by William Fox. The Audubon was one of the first theaters in the Fox theater group for vaudeville and movies to come to Washington Heights and Inwood.

Audubon Ballroom and TheaterWilhelm Fried, a Hungarian-born immigrant, had changed his name to William Fox and purchased a run-down penny arcade in Brooklyn in 1904. He later founded the Fox Film Corporation in 1915. The Audubon had his name emblazoned on the marquee and was a considerable financial investment in which he made sure that income would be forthcoming to repay for the original cost of the building.

Some of the features of the Broadway facade included a three-dimensional polychrome terra cotta design of a boat (representing the Argo of Jason and the Argonauts) with the face of Neptune on it, two faces of court jesters, and icons in the form of fox heads to represent the owner of the building, William Fox. Within the theater were box seats adorned with fabric curtains and Bentwood chairs that were in the art nouveau style. A satyr’s head crowned each box that had been flanked by maidens with diaphanous dresses.

The building was designed by Thomas W. Lamb in association with the Rambusch Studios, which did the interior design of the theater. Lamb combined mythological, iconography and theatrical references for the Audubon. In his career Mr. Lamb designed over 300 movie theaters around the United States. Lamb and the Rambusch Studios would collaborate in the construction and opening of another theater in Washington Heights called the Loew’s 175th Street Theater in 1930.

The 2,368 seat theater was first known as the William Fox Audubon, and then became the Beverly Hills, and finally the San Juan. The theater had top vaudeville acts such as Fannie Brice, Smith & Dale, Wheeler & Woolsey, and Weber & Fields appearing on its stage. In 1927 the theater was the first in the community to have “talkies,” showing “The Jazz Singer” with Al Jolson.

Upstairs on the second floor was the ballroom used for social occasions and special events. This had a dance floor, tables, booths, and a stage for live entertainment. One of the events held in the 1950s was the New York Mardi Gras Festival, where a King and Queen of Harlem were crowned every year. In 1953, Peter Peterson was crowned King. Also such jazz greats who attended were drummer Arthur Zutty Singleton and trumpeter Henry Red Allen.

Rooms in the basement were also used for special functions. One of these had been used as a synagogue called Emez Wozedek and was there from 1939 to 1983. Shops and restaurants were on the street level. Office space was on the second floor after the ballroom had closed.

The Audubon Ballroom was the site of early efforts to organize the municipal transit workers of New York City. It had become the original meeting hall for the IRT Brotherhood, a union that every IRT worker was compelled to join. One of these attendees was Michael J. Quill, who frequented the meetings and was a hell raiser then as in later life.

In 1934 the Transport Workers Union was organized as the first successful industrial labor union of its kind, and the Audubon became a regular meeting place for the newly created union. A year later Quill was elected President. The union moved its offices and meeting hall to West 64th Street in 1937 because the membership had grown to 30,000 members.

In the early 1970s, the San Juan Theater closed its doors to the public. During the period prior to the demolition of the building, the main floor was used for the Department of Housing Preservation as well as offices for educational facilities for the Latino community.

The building is also used for the Office of Neighborhood Services. Known as the Little City Hall, it became the predecessor of the present-day Community Board 12, but with several differences. For example: the Office of Neighborhood Services had no board members, whereas Community Board 12 does.

On February 21, 1965, Malcolm X, a Black Muslim minister, participated at a rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity and was assassinated while giving a speech, forcing the Audubon to close its doors. This resulted in the lack of payment of back taxes, and the City of New York was forced to take over the building in 1967. In time, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center purchased the property.

The Audubon property had become a hotbed of political and private groups. The demise of the ballroom was blamed on the Medical Center because it wanted to raze the building for a new medical research center and to attract more jobs to the community. This brought opposition from the African-American groups that wanted the building to remain as a memorial to Malcolm X. According to some, the Audubon Ballroom was of paramount importance as a landmark to the history of the African-American struggle. Preservation groups had unsuccessfully sued to prevent the demolition of the building.

A compromise was made so that part of the original structure would remain and a memorial to Malcolm X would be created. A 12- by 63-foot mural painted by Daniel Galves, a resident of Oakland California, was painted in May 1997 to honor the achievements of Malcolm X. The Malcolm X Museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2003. There is presently a life-sized statue of Malcolm that can be seen in the Broadway lobby of the building.

The Broadway facade of the building was kept as part of the design for the new complex. During the restoration, the terra cotta facade above the entrance was redone. The head of Neptune, which had been missing for many years, was painstakingly recreated and sculpted in Boston Valley terra cotta by Susan Quimby in 1994. Ms. Quimby relied on a small historic photograph for the re-creation of the head.

When construction was completed, the new building was named the Mary Woodward Lasker Biomedical Research Building. Even though the address is 3960 Broadway, the entrance to the building is on 166th Street between Broadway and Saint Nicholas Avenue. It is a part of the new complex of five buildings that are being constructed by New York (originally Columbia) Presbyterian Medical Center.

As a result of the reconstruction, new stores and a theater, a house of worship, dance hall and union meeting hall had an effect on all that have used it. The Audubon was one restaurant that has opened to the public. Dallas BBQ, Caffe X, The Audubon Bookstore and Chase Manhattan Bank now grace the Broadway side of the building. At 166th Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue is Joe’s Pizza and Deli. As a matter of historical note, the Chase Bank was the site of a Buick dealership that closed in the 1960s.

The center is now home to the Harlem-Heights Historical Society and future home to the Malcolm X Museum. Michael Mowat-Wynn is the executive director for the Society and can be reached at (212) 342-7077. The Malcolm X Museum can be reached at (212) 342-7065.



Allah please forgive Brother Malcolm for his sins, as well as all of the other Muslim Brothers and sisters around the world. Only you we need God, Only you. As for brother Malcolm, more and more human beings shall emerge throughout America like him. To make this country a better and more Islamic place to live.


I am a journalist trying to reach James Renner about subjects such as the Audubon Ballroom above.


I am in York, PA … It is so confusing. Now is the ballroom in Manhattan or Brooklyn? Loving all the history I am finding here … Trying to find out what city Malcolm exactly died in … Thank you. Shirl Santos from York, PA.


The Audubon Ballroom is located in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York City. Malcolm X was killed at the Audubon Ballroom — therefore, he died in New York City.


Why was the Audubon Ballroom called “Audubon.” What did it have to do with J.J. Audubon, the artist who drew birds?


While trying to reach for Malcom x legacy,i found the history described for audubon hall is marvellous.Malcom was really a great warrior for the rights of oppressed and a messenger of equality and brotherhood.America needs Men like Malcom little and Dr. king.


A friend and i went to the NEW Audubon, we were told we could not enter, EVER.We could see the statue of Malcolm X through the window, so i no i was in the correct place. I brought my children to see this site i had talked to them about, and yet, we were not allowed to enter.Please tell me if there is a Museum or not? this was in the summer of 2004.


Washington Heights is NOT Harlem. Harlem to the south extends up to 155st on the island of Manhattan. It is upsetting and even insulting for people from Harlem to claim that the old Ballroom is in Harlem when there is a war monument about three blocks from the Ballroom dedicated by the people of Washington Heights and Inwood. Further, Malcolm X is not a very significant figure for most residents of Washington Heights who are mostly recent Hispanic immigrants or the children of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. As a life long resident of Washington Heights I can tell you that this building should have been razed if it would have led to more jobs. It is rather disturbing to know that there are people so obsessed with where a person died. Malcolm X was important because he fought racism not because of where he died or where he lived. Washington Heights is a very vibrant neighborhood with it’s own identity.


History is history no matter where it is located (i.e. Washington Heights, Harlem whatever). It is quite petty to get caught up in neighborhoods! It is a good thing that the Audubon Ballroom was not razed because it is important to preserve its history and as a result it may create jobs in the long run.


I still can’t beleive the hospital took aover this historic site, Sure they kept the facade, now people eat there, and shop and have lunch. I think this is an insult to the memory of a great man as well as to the african american community. It just shows that if you have money you can purchase what ever. what an insult, and on top of all this, you can’t even enter the building, there is no museum..


and is not like people did not put up a fight, I remember my mother taking me there to fight against its demolition.. The least they can do now is open the godamn place so people can pay there respects…


can you tell me if the Audubon is open for viewing at this time. if not can you tell me when will it be open to the public? i would hate to bring my children to a place where i am trying to learn not only for self but together as a family as well! Could you tell me if the building was remodled for he public with tax dallors, how is it that the public is shut out of history?


I remember the Buick dealership and I remember the Teatro San Juan and I was wondering if there is any place that I can find pictures of this building around that time. The period of the early 70’s. The dealeship was still there until about 1971 or 72.


Long live the name of Malcolm X! Long live the thoughts and actions of Malcolm X! May my children’s children teach their children of the actions of this brave man and aspire to be like Malcolm X!


How disgraceful that this famously important ediface does not have a museum for the public to visit in rememberance of Malcolm.


I remember when I moved to Washington Heights and saw the Audubon Ballroom for the first time. It was an emotional experience because I believe that the life lost in that building has never been fully recognized for its greatness by this country. I hope this community gets over itself and one day memorialize Malcolm X in the most fitting way. I pray people see beyond their Latino, white, Asian heritage and recognize this man as not only a great black leader but as a martyr and leader for the rights of all oppressed people. The occupants of Washington Heights should be thankful for the struggle that secured them more rights for their children and grandchildren.


I’m a 22 year old who has lived in the Heights my whole life. When I was a kid the hospital renovated the building and preserved the facade. ‘Shawn’ commented about the hospital using taxpayer money, but really wasn’t the work done with private funds? Anyone? I am fine with the building as it is now (and I love Dallas BBQ!). In terms of comments made by ‘Al’ I think that the hospital is a great source of employment for residents of Washington Heights. I also think that Dominicans uptown do just fine for themselves and to imply otherwise is incorrect. To dismiss this historical landmark by saying “It is rather disturbing to know that there are people so obsessed with where a person died.” shows that ‘Al’ may not necessarily understand the value of historical architecture. As a young man who grew up in this neighborhood during its worst years I value every bit of history it has. I just saw “King Kong” by Peter Jackson and was thrilled to see a shot of the George Washington Bridge in the 1930’s which appeared at the beginning of the film. I am grateful that this website is here so people can share their experiences. I also encourage people who are not from Washington Heights (but who came to this page to learn about Malcom X) to explore the history of my neighborhood; George Washington fought for our independence in ‘Washington’ Heights, the GWB itself is a landmark and was revolutionary when it was built. John D. Rockefeller had his estate up here, now named after Fort Tryon there is a park with elements of the estate still preserved. The park is only 2nd in size (in Manhattan) to Central Park. Audubon is famous because of Malcom X. Without Malcom X the building wouldn’t have been preserved. Having said that we should be happy that there was preservation of such a pretty wall & roof. I enjoy walking & driving past it, but hardly ever think about Malcom X when I see it. He is very unimportant to me, and I would hope people would pay just as much attention to where he was born as to where he was murdered. Happy 2006, -Mr. Citizen of Washington Heights


Is there any way of finding old pictures of entertainers that performed at the Audubon…I have a family member that played there and I never had a chance to see him.


Re: Al’s post on the location of the ballroom. In Malcolm’s autobiography he states he resided and loved the area just behind and south of the ballroom on Amesterdam Ave., upper 150’s, lower 160s. So there is a historic significance. As for the building being razed, the lot the ballrom sits on isn’t that large and if the hospital was to expand how many jobs would’ve actually been available and how many of them would’ve gone to local residents? Not many, most would’ve went to researchers from abroad educated at the near by Health Sciences’ Campus of Columbia University. So in actuality preserving the ballroom is better for the area then razing it. The preservation of local history enables residents to have pride in where they live and hopefully encourage continous preservation. The museum should be open now to the public, search info on Columbia’s Web Page. The ballroom retained the name Audobon in recognition of the Audobon Family who owned a large parcel of land in the area which happens to stretch south of 155th Street, what Al deems as the northern boundary of Harlem, 155th St.


I recently watched a moving and educational film starring Morgan Freeman as Malcolm X called “Death of a Prophet”. This film focuses on Malcolm’s last day and how he was followed and trapped into being assassinated at the Audubon. I want to visit the ballroom to pay respect to Malcolm X. This site should be highly regarded just like we honor the Lauran Motel in Tennessee where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. As one person stated in this message board stream, “why are we focusing on where he died…” It’s not so much a matter of the death, but the fact that, it was the last place he drew breath on earth. Moreover, it was a place where he planned to put a platform in place to improve the lives of blacks and other minorities in our country. It is a special place and should be looked upon as such. I am also intrigued at how “others” are quick to right-off honoring great African-American leaders, but will go to great lengths to preserve the memory of “their” leaders. It’s a slap in the face for those who helped build America. And while we’re on the subject of building, let us not forget that most of New York City was built ON THE BACKS OF SLAVES! Bottom line, give respect, where respect is due. –Ms. Venom


The exploitation and oppression of black peoople by american society in the 1960s is not in question. Malcom X, however, was a dangerous agitator and agent provocateur. His statements, eloquence and diatribe were plainly racists towards white and has encouraged anti-american feelings around the world. He would probably have found some excuse for the 9/11 outrage perpetrated by “brother islamists” should he be still alive today. His attitude towards women was not that far removed from that of the Taliban. His argument that black americans were not americans but africans who lived in america is one of the most idiotic concept ever uttered by a public figure (even though other people had said it before him). It refuted the inalienable truth that people are the product of the culture they are born in regardless of the origins of their great great great-grandfathers. Malcom X would not have lasted more than 5 minutes in a typical 1960s african tribal culture. If one follows his line of reasoning then no-one is american in america, and maybe no-one is european in europe and no-one is african in africa and so on: we’re all homeless! Malcom X should have used his talent to further the well-being of black and white people in american society and not get mixed up with Islam.


to ms. venom, i’m glad that everyone has their own OPINION. malcolm was and still is a great inspiration to the Africans living in America. he died because he wanted equality justice and freedom for us and we still don’t have it. the lorrain hotel in memphis is a museum and the audubon should be also. he stood up for us he did not bite his tongue and he wasn’t an uncle tom like most of us are now in 2006. he would have made it in an african tribe, he could have made it in america but the “blue eyed devils” wanted him dead and the uncle toms did it. could you make it in an african tribe? malcolmbeliever


All praises do to the most high God! I,being born under the leadership of the 70’s believe that it is of paramount importantance to preserve the life of Malcolm X. For his life truly served its purpose. During these times of peril it we were blessed to have both Malcolm X and Marting Luther King in the forefront of the civil rights movement. I have always been told the the elder are to pray, while the youth are for war. One might read this saying and assume that war is violent. Well it’s not! I believe that Malcolm led a war. A war that focused on equality, brotherhood, and freedom, but most importantly a war in which “Black Men” were taught and expected to stand up as men in “America”. In addition, I believe that there is no other place that would be befitting for a museum tributed to the life of Malcolm X but the Audubon Ballroom. For that was the place in which his spirit was released from his human shell and entered into the eternal realm that exists in me and you that will “fly” until the end of days. Furthermore, I read a comment that stated what does JJ Audubon have to do with this for he only drew pictures of birds. Well it depends upon how you view the picture. A bird has the ability to fly, soar, surmount high above the heavens as well as the ability to descend down into the lillies of the valley. When you view the actual bird then you could make the connection of Malcolms’ life with the life of the bird. In closing, I really wish that I had more time to explain the revealance of the picture of the birds and the life of Malcolm X, but I will do it at another time, until then, peace be unto all who are continually praying for our youth.


I walked all the way from 116th Street to 166th Street, but couldn’t seem to find the site. I saw the hospital west from where I was standing and I also walked into a Latino health clinic. I didn’t see a Dallas Barbecue or other gigs. I was lost, but next time I’m in New York will be a sure shot!


whats this junk about islamic america Malcolm X made no sins except for the radicalism and crap that he did before 1963 and the people who killed him where sins


Right on Ms Venom, I am white and Irish and I hear ya and agree with you wholeheartedly. Malcolm X should be celebrated for the good that he did while here on earth, he was hardly a sinner. Those who killed him are the ones who sinned. Black people still do not have the freedom or the respect they deserve and as a NYer see it everyday all around me -starting with our police dept. Longlive the memory of malcolm X and Dr. King, they wre taken from us far tooi quickly.


yeh, Well, I lived in W’Heights from ’83-87. OK, so I’m a white skinned, blue (actually brown) eyed devil. I admired the Audubon (even in it’s sorry, sorry, sad state). I even wished I could have had the resources to have restored it in it’s rightful dignity. No, it’s not the Taj Mahal – however, it was of great architectural and social significance. Why is it any less than the many civil war skirmish sites that are hallowed ground? Is it not ALL JUST A STRUGGLE FOR WHAT WE PERCEIVE AS EMANCIPATION? I’m waiting – I know somebody will “just rip” me!! “lay it on me” I’m maleable – but not one for B/S and hype… Give me the truth…


I played The Audubon Ballroom in the summer of 1962 with “The Original Duprees”. I was the 1st tenor of the group. We were received very warmly & graciously by the audiance in attendence. I feel very proud of the fact that we had the honor of performing at such an historical landmark. Tom Bialoglow, Original Duprees


I believe that every person should fight for their equal rights so that the country will be improved. I believe that Africans should have their own country so that we can seperate from the whites. I believe strongly in certain things that Malcolm X said. I will die for my freedom. That’s basically what it costs-your life. I will die for my freedom and if any of you all disagree with me i’m ready for your opinion.


I DID NOT KNOW THAT! I can’t believe the neighborhood I grew up in is so rich in history!


At the time of Malcolm’s death, i didnt know who he was until the next year when i was 10 years old i went to a dance at the Audubon ballroom in 1966 i heard of who he was and what had happen, i dont believe in the muslim faith but Malcolm spoke out in what he believe was right within the muslim religion agaist his leader even though it would cost him his life.
Audubon Ballroom

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