(From F.S. Laurence, "Color in Architecture", The American Architect and The Architectural Review, Vol. CXXII, No. 2402, September 13, 1922, p. 219)


Title of Installation:

Folies Bergère/Fulton/Helen Hayes Theatres

Materials Used:

Terra Cotta

General Description:

"Design[d] by noted theatre architects Herts and Tallant in 1910, the Folies Bergere is among the most impressive of New York City's theatres. Its polychromatic terra cotta facade is unique among the city's playhouses. It premiered in 1911 as America's first dinner threatre/cabaret and later became an important legitimate theatre." (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/NY0365/)

"The Helen Hayes was built at 210 West 46th in 1911 as the Folies Bergère. Theaters were common in Times Square at that time, and the two developers, Henry B. Harris and Jesse Lasky, had decided on something a little different: a dinner theater named after the Parisian music hall, with whatever Parisian spice Puritan America would allow.

Harris and Lasky retained the theater specialists Henry Herts and Hugh Tallant. They had already designed the Art Nouveau New Amsterdam Theater on 42nd; the frothy, classical Lyceum on 45th; and the majestic Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene.

But Herts & Tallant outdid them all with the rich buttercream simplicity of the Folies Bergère. Between ornate colonnettes rising to a cornice of grimacing faces, they spread out a tapestry of yellow and cream terra cotta panels, set at a 45-degree angle, like the facade of the Doge's Palace in Venice. Except for three doorways, they left this wall uninterrupted by balcony or window or marquee - that alone was unprecedented.

The facade rose to a great mural, perhaps 10 feet high and 80 feet long, of multicolored figures in costume representing the history of vaudeville, the work of the Paris-trained classicist William de Leftwich Dodge. At either end rose giant flagpoles, perhaps 100 feet high, projecting up through the cornice with electric signs, wavy in imitation of banners. The theater equaled or surpassed its rivals in Times Square." (From Christopher Gray's "Streetscapes" column in the Oct. 9, 2011 New York Timeshttp://mobile.nytimes.com/article?a=851294&f=38&p=2)

"The facade, Venetian in spirit, is erected in glazed polychrome terra-cotta with tones of ivory, turquoise blue and gold.  Below the bronze cornice, the mural frieze of Wm. De L. Dodge represents in allegory all the characters of vaudeville marching to the throne of 'Les Folies-Bergère.' "*

"Harmony and richness are well exemplified in the treatment of this building. The material used was terra cotta throughout excepting the painted panel under the cornice which is colored cement, and the reveals of arched doorways which are in highly colored glass Mosaic. Diaper pattern of walls is developed in deep amber yellow and ivory with blue spots at the intersections of lattice, this blue being recalled in the brackets soffit and fret ornament of the cornice."***

The AIA Guide to New York City (5th Edition, 2010, by Norval White, Elliot Willensky, and Fran Leadon) states that this was "...One of the finest of Broadway's theaters to disappear. ...The previous AIA Guide called its lavish blue and cream terra-cotta facade 'worked by a crochet hook'."

Technical Information (Size,mfg., etc.):

The terra cotta was manufactured by the Federal Terra Cotta Company.

Year Created:


Does Installation Still Exist?


If Not, What Happened?

The theater was demolished in 1982, and the last pieces of the facade were placed in an auction in October 2011: "In 1973 the Atlanta developer John Portman announced plans for a 54-story hotel on the west side of Broadway from 45th to 46th Street, including the site of the old Folies Bergère. Completion was scheduled for 1977. The map of New York is littered with such predictions, and 1982 found the project mired in the most bitter preservation fight since Penn Station, New York City allied with the business establishment, and theater people in league with preservationists.

...Pieces of the facade were salvaged, and a few went to nonprofit organizations like Common Ground, which installed them in the lobby of its supported-housing development at Eighth Avenue and 43rd Street.

...Of the 150 large square pieces that made up the facade in 1911, there are now perhaps 50, most broken, chipped or otherwise damaged." (From Christopher Gray's "Streetscapes" column in the Oct. 9, 2011 New York Timeshttp://mobile.nytimes.com/article?a=851294&f=38&p=2)

Location of Installation:

210 West 46th Street (between Broadway and Eighth Avenue), Manhattan, NY

Additional Information, Websites, Citations:

The Internet Broadway Database (http://www.ibdb.com/venue.php?id=1154) lists all the productions of the Folies Bergère/Fulton/Helen Hates Theatres.

Besides Mr. Gray's "Streetscapes" article, "Mementos of a Lost Battle" in the New York Times, there are two contemporary, public domain articles that discuss the Folies Bergère Theatre. The first is "Theatres And Their Decorations" in Architecture and Building, (pub. by The William T. Comstock Co., New York) Vol. XLIII, No. 8, May 1911, pp. 361-365.* The second is "The Folies Bergère, New York" in The New York Architect, (pub. by The Harwell-Evans Co., New York) Vol. V, No. 54, June 1911, pp. 119+.**

***F.S. Laurence, "Color in Architecture", The American Architect and The Architectural Review, Vol. CXXII, No. 2402, Wed., September 13, 1922, p. 219.

Photos of auction lots courtesy of Michael Padwee. Other photos from the two articles mentioned above, unless otherwise noted.

Submitted by and Year:

Submitted by Michael Padwee (tileback101"at"collector.org), October 2011.

The Dodge Mural surrounded by terra cotta elements*

(From F.S. Laurence, "Color in Architecture--Part II", The American Architect and The Architectural Review, Vol. CXXII, No. 2403, Wed., September 27, 1922, Frontispiece)

These pallets of terra cotta were one lot in the NY City Landmarks Preservation Commission auction of the remaining pieces of the theater in October 2011.

Part of a mosaic installation.

The facade**

One of the decorative terra cotta pieces.