The Harlem Alhambra

The Harlem Alhambra was a theater in Harlem, New York, built in 1905, that began as a vaudeville venue. The building still stands. The architect was John Bailey McElfatrick (1829–1906) who, based in Manhattan, founded the architectural firm John B. McElfatrick & Son – builder of 100 theaters.[1] Construction on the structure commenced late 1902 by its original owner, Harlem Auditorium Amusement Company.

Drawing published in 1904 of the planned Harlem Alhambra, which was then called the Auditorium.


The original design included specifications for a rathskeller, which was to be a reproduction of the Brunheil Rathskeller in Leipzig, a music hall, a roof garden, and an apartment house.[2][3] The building is six stories.

Initial openingEdit

The original owners started it in 1903; but it was not completed owing to litigation. At some point during the litigation, the Orpheum Amusement Company, of which Percy G. Williams (1857–1923) was president, acquired the property. When Williams opened the theater on May 15, 1905, the seating capacity was 1,650.[4] By 1910, Williams managed the largest number of vaudeville theaters in New York City — two in Manhattan, one in the Bronx, and one each in Brooklyn and Queens.[5]

Jazz eraEdit

It eventually became a movie venue and, in 1929, opened a famed upstairs ballroom that hosted performers including Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday.

Current useEdit

The ballroom fell into disrepair in the 1960s, but, after standing empty for the last third of the twentieth century, the Alhambra hosted a 600-person happening and light show by German designer Ingo Maurer on May 22, 2000 (Harlem Nights: A Night at the Alhambra). This attracted new investment, and the top floor reopened in 2003 as The Alhambra Ballroom, Inc. (Willie Mae Scott, CEO), hosting weddings, parties, and other social events. From 2006-2012, Harlem Lanes – a popular bowling facility – operated on the third and fourth floors.[6] Harlem Bowling Center LLC (Sharon Jones, CEO) was the owner. Other tenants have included the King Solomon Grand Lodge of New York, Inc. (Masonic), a supermarket, and a jazz restaurant – Gospel Uptown (owned by Joseph H. Holland) – on the ground floor (2009-2010), replacing short-lived seafood restaurant, Pier 2110. Bankruptcy. The Alhambra Ballroom, Inc. filed chapter 7 bankruptcy in the Southern District of New York on August 19, 2020. Case number: 20-22945. Judge Robert D. Drain, presiding. The Alhambra Ballroom is represented by Michael A. Koplen, Esq., of the Koplen Law Firm, New City, New York.


The building is located at 2108-2118 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (7th Avenue) at the South-West corner of 126th Street in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Simpson West Realty, LLC, owns the building, as of 2014.


  1. ^ Architect Dies at Work. J.B.McElfatrick’s Heart Fails in His Office -- He Built 100 Theatres, The New York Times, June 7, 1906 (below Karl von Hartmann obituary), retrieved October 23, 2012
  2. ^ New Uptown Theatre. Harlem Auditorium at Seventh Avenue and 126th Street to be Completed by March Next, The New York Times, September 19, 1902, retrieved October 23, 2012
  3. ^ The Harlem Auditorium. John B. McElfatrick & Son, Architects, Architect's and Builders' Magazine, Vol. 36 No. 5 (February, 1904), pp. 223-7, retrieved June 9, 2014
  4. ^ Article 10-No Title, col. 1The New York Times, May 14, 1905, retrieved October 23, 2012
  5. ^ What the Season Promises for Patrons of Vaudeville, The New York Times, September 11, 1910, retrieved October 23, 2012
  6. ^ Vincent M. Mallozzi, On 126th St., Harlem Lanes Opens Its Doors, and Alleys, The New York Times, April 2, 2006, retrieved October 23, 2012