The elephants at the Hippodrome

When it opened in 1905, the Hippodrome was “the largest playhouse in the world,” as the back of this 1907 postcard triumphantly states. Located on Sixth Avenue between 43rd and 44th Streets, it was a spectacular place for New Yorkers to see theater, silent movies, and choruses. 

And elephant acts too. The Hippodrome was built by the same firm that created Luna Park, the amusement mecca of Coney Island at the time. The Hippodrome had Luna Park’s crazy carnival vibe, and the venue staged many shows featuring animals, especially elephants.

One popular crowd-pleaser involved training elephants to dive into a custom made 8,000-gallon tank of water on stage. As a September 10, 1905 New York Times article explains:

“Trainer Powers finally shouted to Big Jennie, and she started timidly to the gangway leading into the tank. The three other elephants followed. A man rode on the head of Ada, who gave him a ducking as she plunged into the water. All four elephants immediately started to swim, the stage flooring having been lowered to allow a depth of fifteen feet of water.”

The Hippodrome and its elephant acts bit the dust in 1939. An office building stands in its place. 

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3 Responses to “The elephants at the Hippodrome”

  1. joy Says:

    You continue to mirror my city excursions, and then give me the answers to my “wonder what that is” questions. 🙂

    A couple of weeks ago a driver took me in the middle of night down 6th Ave (the best time to see it, without the masses of humanity), and we passed by the Hippodrome office building. I noticed that their lobby wall showcases a historical mural, and I figured that it’s the original Hippodrome.

    I keep meaning to go back one weekend to take a closer look, but never actually make it there.

    Thanks!

  2. An elephant dies at Coney Island « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Elephants have a long history entertaining New Yorkers. Read more about it here and here. […]

  3. Colorful poster stamp images of an older city | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Hippodrome, once on Sixth Avenue at 43rd Street, is gone, and Times Square’s opulent Astor Hotel no longer exists […]

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