Radio City Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932. Located in New York City’s Rockefeller Center, this fabulous Art Deco theater is home to The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a New York Christmas tradition since 1933, and to the women’s precision dance team known as the Rockettes.
John D. Rockefeller Jr. engaged New York theater and radio impresario Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel (1881-1936) to plan the theater. Designed by Donald Deskey (1894- 1989), the interior of the theater incorporates glass, aluminum, chrome, and geometric ornamentation. Deskey rejected the Rococo embellishment generally used for theaters at that time in favor of a contemporary Art Deco style.
The ceiling over the Great Stage resembles a setting sun. The immense theater was built to seat nearly 6,000 people. The stage contained built-in elevators to raise and lower scenery as well as the orchestra. Programming was a mix of films and live stage shows.
The twelve-acre complex in Midtown Manhattan known as Rockefeller Center was developed between 1929 and 1940 by John D. Rockefeller Jr., on land leased from Columbia University. Rockefeller initially planned an opera house on the site, but changed his mind after the stock market crash of 1929. One of the complex’s first tenants was The Radio Corporation of America (RCA), hence the names “Radio City” and “Radio City Music Hall.”
- The Gottscho-Schleisner Collection contains more than 100 detailed architectural photographs of Rockefeller Center. To find these, search the collection on the phrase Rockefeller Center.
- Search Martha Graham at the Library of Congress for Radio City, to find clippings and a program for the theater’s inaugural performance, for which Graham choreographed a dance piece.
- Search across the Library’s pictorial collections to find images of Radio City and Rockefeller Center.
- Search Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers on the phrase John D. Rockefeller, Jr. to find articles about Rockefeller’s career. You may wish to start with the special feature which includes significant dates, suggested search strategies, and a sample of articles.