240 West 44th StreetNew York, NY
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Architectural Historian, Columbia University
Jeffrey Eric Jenkins
Co-Owner, Helen Hayes Theatre
The Helen Hayes Theatre, previously called the Little Theatre, was built in 1912 by Winthrop Ames as a 299-seat venue to avoid a fire department regulation that required a ten-foot alley on either side of auditoriums seating 300 or more.
A wealthy New Englander and Harvard graduate, Ames financed the construction with his inheritance money from Ames Shovel and Tool Company. Ames was interested in the Little Theater Movement and wanted to build an intimate venue where audiences felt like they were sitting in a living room watching a play. Ames, who had studied architecture, contributed to the design and worked closely with two young architects with no theater experience, Harry Creighton Ingalls and F. Burrall Hoffman, who had studied at the École de Beaux-Arts in Paris. Designed to look like a colonial New England house, the theater was adorned with red brick laid in the Flemish bond style, alternating long and short bricks, shutters on the windows, and iron balconies. The interior was designed in the plainer neo-Colonial or Federal style, a departure from most other Broadway theaters that were more formal. In 1920 Herbert J. Krapp redesigned the theater and added a balcony to accommodate additional seating. The theater was renovated again in 1979 and renamed the Helen Hayes in 1983 after the original theater of that name was torn down to make room for the New York Marriott Marquis. Today it is the only independently owned theatre on Broadway and, with only 599 seats, it remains the littlest theater.
F. Burrall Hoffman was born in 1882 to a wealthy New York City family. He graduated from Harvard University and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
While in Paris, he studied under Henri-Adolphe-Auguste Deglane, one of the designers of the Grand Palais at the 1900 Exposition Universalle in Paris. After returning to New York, he served a two-year apprenticeship with the firm Carrère & Hastings. He started his own firm with Harry Creighton Ingalls in 1910. They specialized in the design of theaters and private residences. Hoffman's most well known project is the Villa Vizcaya of 1916, industrialist James Deering’s winter home in Miami. Hoffman was a captain with the Corps of Engineers in World War I and a lieutenant commander in the Navy in World War II. After Ingalls’s death in 1936, Hoffman continued to practice but only designed about one project a year in the aftermath of the Depression.
Harry Creighton Ingalls graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
He met his architectural partner, F. Burrall Hoffman, while studying in Paris and they formed a longstanding partnership in 1910 after moving to New York City. Their first large project was the Little Theater, now the Helen Hayes Theatre, for producer Winthrop Ames. Ingalls specialized in theater design and private residences. Ingalls and Hoffman worked together until Ingalls's death in 1936.
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