Events & News

Preservation History in Quotes

Preservation History in Quotes

October 16, 2015
Article from the Fall 2015 Newsletter

“Landmark designation may well be the last nail in [Radio City] Music Hall’s coffin.”  – Alton Marshall

It might be difficult to imagine New York City without Radio City Music Hall, but in the late 1970s, that was a distinct possibility. Alton Marshall, the president of Rockefeller Center and owner of the Hall, included the above statement in his testimony at a New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) hearing that would eventually decide whether or not the iconic theater would be designated a New York City interior landmark. Marshall had announced that the Hall would close in 1978 because of a $2.3 million deficit. Reportedly there were plans to replace the Art Deco interiors with office space. In response to this announcement, efforts were launched to protect the building, spearheaded by Lieutenant Governor Mary Anne Krupsak and a “rescue committee” of business, government, labor, and cultural group representatives. Even the world famous Rockettes joined in to help save the building.  

Despite Marshall’s “nail in the coffin” testimony, on March 28, 1978, Radio City Music Hall’s interior was designated a landmark by the LPC. And although the next year was fiscally unstable, the Music Hall minimized financial losses, eventually turning a profit and reopening to the public in 1980. Five years later the exterior was designated as part of the larger Rockefeller Center complex. After a restoration in 1999, Radio City Music Hall has been shining brighter than ever. It continues to be a wildly successful venue for film premieres, The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, leading pop and rock performances, as well as televised events including the Grammy Awards, the Tony Awards, and the NFL Draft. Landmark designation hardly proved to be the death knell of Radio City Music Hall.

Above: Rockette Phyllis Wujko yells with delight after the announcement that Radio City Music Hall would remain open, 1978; Courtesy of Flashbak.com