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Work begins on rebirth of Victory Theater.

Hard hats, power saws and cement mixers have invaded New York's oldest surviving theater, as work commences on transforming it into New York City's first venue dedicated to year-round programming for young people. The $11.4 million renovation project is the first of six planned on the fabled 42nd Street.

Built in 1900 by Oscar Hammerstein, grandfather of the famous lyricist, and renamed The New Victory, the lovingly ornamented two-balcony house has temporarily taken on the appearance of a Hollywood movie set.

"When construction is complete, New York City will get its first full-time, year-round professional theater for kids in a prime location, at the crossroads of the world," said Cora Cahan, president of The New 42nd Street.

Expected to open in December 1995, the 500-seat New Victory will feature top names in film, theater and dance. Performers will range from world renowned artists to the best of New York's budding talent.

The New Victory is the first renovation undertaken by The New 42nd Street, a nonprofit organization established by New York State and New York City to determine new uses for six theaters on 42nd Street and to guide and oversee their renovation and operation.

The New Victory has a rich history - including having been the first of 42nd Street's playhouses to fall to pornography in the 1970s.

During its venerable lifetime, the theater was also home to more legitimate hits, with stars such as David Warfield, Jane Cowl, George Arliss, Mrs. Leslie Carter, Tyrone Power, Cecil B. de Mille, Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish.

The theater also featured one of Broadway's longest running plays, the Irish-Jewish comedy "Abie's Irish Rose," which played 2,327 times over six seasons starting in 1922.

The firm of Hardy Holzmann Pfeiffer Associates (HHPA) has undertaken the intricate project of transforming the turn-of-the-20th-century Victory Theater into the fully-equipped 21st-century New Victory, providing state-of-the-art performance facilities while conserving and restoring the theater's intimate proportions and historic details. HHPA has designed a program that expands the public lobby and basement; restores the exterior facade; reconstructs the original double entrance stair; restores all interior elements, including detailed plaster and woodwork; upgrades the theater's technology and infrastructure to accommodate contemporary needs; inserts an elevator; renovates the existing buildings on 43rd Street which abut the Victory stage to serve back-of-the-house functions; and installs new theater equipment.

"Once the New Victory is renovated," explains Hugh Hardy, "it will become the oldest active theater in New York City. The desire to bring back theater with such a rich history and turn it into a family venue at the heart of a revived 42nd Street is the sign of a rejuvenated commitment to public life in New York."

The technical theater consultants for the New Victory renovation are Jules Fisher Associates, and Jaffe Holden Scarbrough Associates, Acoustician.
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Copyright 1995, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:New York City
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Apr 5, 1995
Words:466
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