New York, NY 10019
The Winter Garden was built on and in the second American Horse Exchange. The Exchange had been constructed in 1896 when Longacre Square (now Times Square) was the center of the horse and carriage trade. The Shuberts rented out the Exchange in 1911 and transformed it into the Winter Garden Theatre. Architect William Albert Swasey converted the show ring into an auditorium with only one balcony and decorated it with a garden theme. The existing space determined that Swasey would have to design an abnormally wide theatre and therefore, the audience would be closer to the stage. At one point, there was a water tank on stage, and in its first ten years a runway extended into the audience. The audience referred to it as “The Bridge of Thighs” due to the number of leggy showgirls who appeared on it. Twelve years after it opened, Herbert J. Krapp renovated the interior and he removed the runway, lowered the ceiling and proscenium arch, and redecorated the theatre in a more Adamesque style. The Winter Garden has housed mainly revues and musicals, and almost every Al Jolson musical was produced on its stage. After Cats closed in 2001, architect Francesca Russo supervised a multimillion dollar renovation of the theatre that transformed it back to its Twenties’ style.