Imagine an entertainment mecca that featured grisly and gaudy wax displays: think Queen Victoria, President Arthur, and an imagined scene from the Spanish Inquisition.
There was also a “winter garden” concert hall and periodic bookings of notable people at the time, such as Sitting Bull.
And don’t forget the robot named Ajeeb who challenged customers to a game of chess (a real human chess champion was hidden inside).
All this could be experienced for just 50 cents. No wonder New Yorkers packed the French Renaissance building off Sixth Avenue in the newly chic Madison Square area.
Movies turned out to be its downfall. Audiences no longer wanted to see wax figures and live shows; they craved film.
A June 8, 1915 New York Times headline put it this way: “Eden Musee Faces Bankruptcy Court: Northward Movement of Stores and Moving Picture Craze Hurts Wax Works.”
But for more than 30 years, the place had a good run.
Tags: 55 West 23rd Street, Ajeeb, chess-playing robot, Eden Musee, moving pictures New York City, New York City in the 1880s, New York street, Turn of the century New York City, vaudeville theaters, wax museum New York City, winter gardens New York City