OHNY: Radio City Music Hall

Created by oil mogul John D. Rockefeller in 1929, Rockefeller Center is an enormous complex of office buildings, shops, theaters, cafes, restaurants, recreation facilities, attractions and underground passageways. It spans a gigantic space in the heart of midtown, stretching east to west from 5th Avenue to 7th Avenue and north to south from 50th Street down to 47th. Almost 300,000 people work in or visit this Art Deco masterpiece every day, many of them heading straight to Radio City Music Hall, the city’s largest and most notable theater.

In 1999, to mark its 70th birthday, Radio City Music Hall underwent an enormous restoration effort aimed at updating the infrastructure and returning the structure to its past glory. The project was led by architect Hugh Hardy, who, as part of Open House New York Weekend, led visitors through the refurbished space and described how he made it sparkle again.

The scope of work was massive and the budget, originally estimated at $25,000,000, eventually topped $70,000,000. Removing seven decades of smoke and grime and repairing wear and tear was just the beginning. Some of the most demanding aspects of the project involved undoing the damage done by inept restorers and un-doing misguided attempts to “modernize” the theater.

During the project, hundreds of workmen and artisans swarmed over the building and stripped away the varnish and dirt that obscured dozens of murals, reupholstered furniture, re-silvered mirrors, installed state of the art lighting, video and audio systems, replaced damaged plasterwork, installed acres of new, custom designed carpets and hung specially woven silk curtains.

Hardy escorted the OHNY visitors upstairs and down: to a private booth high above the theater (“Please, no photos of the stage!,” he ordered), into the men’s and women’s restrooms, across the mezzanine and through the lobby, past the bar and around the sculptures until Radio City employees chased us from the premises so that they could open the doors for the next performance. The show must go on!

The view from the street

Plaque of the Rockettes on the facade


The carpet features 12 musical instruments

A bar in the lobby

Stuart Davis mural in men’s room

In the men’s room
A cathedral of urinals

Where the men go

Inside the ladies’ room

The mural is called The History of Cosmetics

Hugh Hardy and associate lead visitors in ladies’ room

Sinks in ladies’ room

Visitors in a rest room

Crouching Panther by Henry Billings, a men’s room mural

Untitled ladies’ room mural by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (repainted by Yohnnes Aynalem)

Gazing down at balcony bar

Statue in an upstairs corridor

Dressing tables inside a ladies’ room

View from balcony

Another lobby view

Hugh Hardy in Radio City Music Hall

Open House New York Weekend
Radio City Music Hall
NY Times: Piece by Piece, a Faded Icon Regains Its Art Deco Glow
Hugh Hardy

4 Responses to OHNY: Radio City Music Hall

  1. Esther says:

    Those urinals!!! Miles and miles of urinals!!! Crazy!: D


  2. Olivier says:

    c’est vraiment la visite complète ;o)) c’est vraiment magnifique a l’intérieur, dire que j’ai jamais visité
    it is really complete visit ;o)) it is really splendid a inside, keeps that I never visited inside


  3. antof9 says:

    LOVE this tour! The Rockette plaque in particular fascinates me. Were they ever that curvy?


  4. Cool topic. I continually need to read as much about this as I can.


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