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Movie Palace, Music Hall, Dance Club: the Many Lives of the Palladium

In 1926, the Academy of Music opened at 126 East 14th street. Although called the Academy of Music, the building was primarily a cinema, and a particularly grand one at that, named for the previously existing Academy of Music opera house which had been located across the street, and had closed earlier that year. 

Academy of Music, Source: Cinema Treasures

For decades, the Academy of Music mainly operated as a movie theater, occasionally hosting other events such as boxing matches. By the 1960s the hall began to host concerts, including several early American performances by the Rolling Stones. In 1971, with the closure of the Fillmore East, an iconic but short-lived rock venue in the East Village, the Academy of Music began to increase its rock music programming. 

On September 18, 1976 the Academy of Music re-opened as the Palladium, and would operate entirely as a music venue. The space was renovated to include expanded seating for 3,400. Opening night featured a concert by The Band. As a concert hall the Palladium continued to host acts such as Patti Smith, the Ramones, and Bruce Springsteen. Famously, the Clash performed at the venue in September of 1979. During the performance the band’s bassist Paul Simonon crashed his bass onto the stage. An image of this was captured by Pennie Smith, and would later be used on the cover the band’s London Calling Album. 

The Palladium, 1979. Source: Cinema Treasures
The Clash London Calling Album Cover

In 1985 the building was remodeled into a night club, also called the Palladium. It was developed by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the duo behind Studio 54. The building was redesigned in order to better suit a night club, the theater seats were removed and a large modern structure which would host a dance floor and several balconies was added inside. Along the ceiling, the Academy of Music’s original 1920s details remained. Murals from several artists were also commissioned for the space. Keith Haring painted a mural that hung above the dance floor. Jean-Michel Basquiat painted a mural that was placed behind one of the club’s bars. Francesco Clemente painted a fresco above the staircase.

Palladium Night club, with details from Academy of Music visible. Source: Archdaily

Opening night at the club was similarly star studded, with New York A-Listers such as Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Halston all in attendance. The club was home to events such as fashion shows and parties that accompanied art gallery openings. 

Palladium night club featuring Keith Haring Mural above dance floor. Source: ArchDaily
Basquiat painting at Palladium. Source: Artsy
Fransisco Clemente’s fresco. Source: Archdaily

Despite the club’s successful early years, by the late 90s the club began to struggle. In 1997 the club and several neighboring buildings were sold to a real estate developer. Soon after, it was announced that an NYU dorm was slated for the location. The entire site was demolished, and a 12-story NYU Dorm was built. The dorm was named Palladium Hall, to “note” the history of the site. However the building itself does the nothing to do so, displaying no visual references to the club or theater. 

NYU Palladium Dorm. Source: Architizer

Many other buildings South of Union Square also share exciting histories. While this one was unfortunately demolished, we still have the opportunity to preserve and learn from the other buildings. To learn more about these buildings please check out our South of Union Square Map + Tours, which highlights the history of buildings in the area. To learn more about buildings like this one that have tragically been demolished, see our South of Union Square Gone But Not Forgotten Tour.

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