The United Palace opened in 1930 as a vaudeville house and deluxe movie theatre. In 1969 it was purchased and preserved by the prosperity preacher Rev. Ike, who restored the stunning architecture while building his congregation. Today the Palace continues his legacy through the United Palace House of Inspiration (UPHI). The building also houses an independent, nonprofit arts and cultural center called the United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA),and hosts dozens of concerts, film shoots and other events throughout the year. With close to 3,400 seats it is Manhattan's 4th largest theatre.
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In 1930 the ornate Loew’s 175th Street Theater opened as a vaudeville house and deluxe movie theatre in Washington Heights at Broadway and 175th Street. Advertisements at the time promised “Times-Square entertainment nearer your home” and that is what audiences got when they walked into the exotic, gilded foyer depicting Buddhas, lions, intricate hand-carved Moorish patterns, and statuesque elephants. It was designed by noted theatre architect Thomas Lamb with the interiors were overseen by decorative specialist Harold Rambusch, who also worked on the Waldorf Astoria and Radio City Music Hall. Noted architecture critic David Dunlap described the style as “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco.”
Like all five Loew’s Wonder Theatres built in the New York metro area from 1929-1930 it was known for its “Wonder Morton” pipe organ, designed to replicate all the sounds of an orchestra - as well as doorbells, horse hoofs, thunder, and car horns - to accompany silent movies.
In 1969, when many of the city’s grand movie theatres had been demolished or turned into multiplexes, the building was purchased and preserved by Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, who is considered the first black televangelist. Rev. Ike, as he was known, moved his church into the theatre and soon after renamed it the United Palace. As a successful “prosperity preacher” he was able to maintain the glorious theatre as he built his congregation through radio and television syndication. The church has maintained a presence here ever since, never missing a Sunday service. It is thanks to the Eikerenkoetter family and the congregation that the building has been maintained all these years while the other four Wonder Theatres fell into disrepair at one time or another.
When the congregation began to shrink in the early 2000’s the theatre also became a performance hall, booking concerts by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Adele, the Allman Brothers, and countless top Latin acts. With 3,400 seats, it is Manhattan’s fourth largest theatre. The Palace has also been used for dozens of film, TV, and commercial shoots, including “Law & Order,” “The Blacklist,” and the remakes of “Annie” and “Spiderman.”
When Rev. Ike passed away in 2009 his only son, Xavier, assumed control of the Palace and the legacy of his congregation, which was renamed the United Palace House of Inspiration (UPHI). It is an all-inclusive, spiritual community that supports the individual and collective life of the soul and spirit within every human being. Services are held Sunday at high noon and feature a rousing gospel choir, guided meditation led by Xavier, and special guests.
In 2012 Xavier fulfilled his dream of creating an arts and cultural center by incorporating the United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA) as an independent nonprofit. Its mission is to uplift, educate, and unite the Northern Manhattan community and beyond by providing cultural events from local, national, and international artists; arts education and mentoring for young people; and space as a community resource. UPCA is one of the few arts institutions north of 125th Street providing vital arts experiences to hundreds of children and thousands of audience members. Highlights of the first few years include the 5-year anniversary concert of the Tony Award-winning musical “In the Heights”; master workshops provided by the New York Philharmonic to elementary school musicians; crowdsourcing campaigns to return movies to the Palace, including a series of “Classic New York City Movies” with special guests and pre-show entertainment; and the co-creation of “The Hip Hop Nutcracker,” which has become a touring holiday show.
The theatre that opened 85 years ago promising “Times-Square entertainment nearer your home” continues to enchant. Whether it is local residents who still hunger for cultural experiences north of 125th Street or metro-area audiences seeking entertainment in a timeless venue, everyone who enters is transported by the otherworldly architecture and primed for the inspirational activity that will follow.
Musical artists that have performed at the United Palace
Adele (Six-time Grammy winner)
Lorde (Two-time Grammy winner)
String Cheese Incident
Gilberto Santa Rosa
The Allman Brothers
Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds
B. B. King
Stage/TV Productions/Music Videos/Commercials
American Cancer Society – Jennifer Hudson
Capital One- Ben Stiller
Brazilian Youth Orchestra
Citibank- Alicia Keys
Law and Order
Target - Beyonce
Bard High School Early College
Fredrick Douglass Academy
Stuyvesant High School