Joe Rosenberg is an architecture and theater historian who is responsible for the landmark designation of Radio City Music Hall, the Beacon Theatre, and more than 40 other historic theaters in New York City. Joe is also Study Leader on our Backstage on Broadway tour. Here, program manager Cheryl Lytle asked him for some insight on his long career in historic preservation. Click here for more information on Joe and traveling with him.
Cheryl Lytle: Your degree is in medical biochemistry. How did you become interested in saving historic buildings in New York City?
Joe Rosenberg:For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in ornate motion picture palaces, but it was not until I moved to New York that I became interested in architectural preservation and theater. When it was announced that Radio City Music Hall was scheduled for demolition, I formed a “Showpeople’s Committee to Save Radio City.” After the Music Hall was saved, I was asked to help with the landmark designation of the threatened New Amsterdam Theatre (one of the most beautiful theaters in the world, now beautifully renovated by Disney and home to Mary Poppins). After the landmark designation of the New Amsterdam, I started—in conjunction with Actor’s Equity—an organization called Save The Theatres, which tried unsuccessfully to save several other historic theaters from demolition. However, eventually we were able to get 35 remaining Broadway theaters designated as landmarks. As time went on, I was asked to consult with preservation organizations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the UK—mostly to save old theaters, but occasionally for designating historic districts.
CL: What do you consider your greatest success story in your long career of saving historic theaters?
JR: Because I pass them every day of my life, I am most proud of being a part of saving Radio City Music Hall, the New Amsterdam, and 35 of the 40 operating Broadway Theaters. (more…)