The New Amsterdam is New York’s oldest surviving Broadway theater and the only one designed in the Art Nouveau style. Following the style’s focus on nature, the color scheme creates the effect of a woodland filled with fruits and flowers.
It hosted entertainments, including the Ziegfeld Follies until 1936, when it was converted into a movie theater with the interiors remaining largely intact. The most ruinous damage occurred during a failed restoration attempt in the 1980s. The roof was left open after rotting steel was discovered, resulting in extensive water damage.
After almost a decade, New York State stepped in to stabilize the devastated theater. Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer, commissioned to oversee the project, faced peeling paint, collapsing plaster, and almost no vestige of the original colorful scheme. Through the fortunate recovery of an original light fixture, the designers identified the wall colors. Despite its preservation challenges, the interior remained inspiring enough to attract investment from the Walt Disney Company, enabling a full restoration.
Photographs by T. Whitney Cox