the ballroom building


The Miller Grand Ballroom was completed around 1901. Later called the Grand Paradise Ballroom it was host to many concerts and wedding receptions. With two dance floors divisible into four, and two kitchens, it was one of the largest in the city. One of the two kitchens was a Chinese kitchen offering the novelty of a Chinese food catered affair. The original design of the ballroom building was in keeping with the taste of the time and included glass bead sconces and marble walls with terrazzo floors.

Sometime in the early 60’s the ballroom building was renovated and many of the earlier details were lost, however many still remain. In the lobby the first walls you see as you walk in are the original 1901 marble walls with beaded light sconces very similar to those aboard the contemporary ship Titanic. Further down the hall the wall is still marble but cut into little pieces and arranged on edge from the 1960’s renovation.

Above the ceiling in the front of the lobby just behind the front door is the only remaining mural. A ceiling, installed during the 1960’s renovation, hides the mural. Although it was not possible to uncover the mural without damaging it, the mural is preserved there undamaged.

During the conversion to lofts every pain was taken not to destroy the architectural details of the building, whether they be from the early 1900’s or the 1960’s. Old light and other fixtures, no longer connected to the electrical system were left in place. Floors and walls were retained, even when it would have been less expensive and more convenient to remove them. Some details that could not be left exposed because of fire or building code were covered but kept in good condition and preserved.

The conversion to lofts was done in 2001 and was completed in about six months. The final inspection date was arranged for September 25, 2001. That inspection was delayed while the buildings department inspected the many buildings in Manhattan damaged that month.

The main ballroom and balcony now include lofts 2A, 2B, 2C, and 2D. The rear of the main ballroom including the stage area now includes 2E, 2F, 2G, and 2H. The upper ballrooms include 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, & 4E. The rear of the main ballroom would have been curtained off during the ceremony and opened up complete with tables and place settings, as the guests from the main room were invite to dine. The main ballroom and upper ballroom lofts have rare, original full dimesion maple-wood floors.

The ballroom building also served as a venue for the most popular performers of the day including Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, The Benny Goodman Orchestra and, Paul Robeson. Tito Puente is said to have played the ballroom so often he bought an apartment across the street.

The building was bought from the Miller family by an investor around 1975. The ballroom was closed and the building laid empty except for a few stores for the next 25 years. The empty building acted as a drain on the area and served to attract crime and vandalism. The building was bought in 1998 and converted after paper work with the city was finalized in 2000.

A great deal of effort and care went into the mechanicals of the building. All heating and plumbing work was done to the highest standards.

A full sprinkler system was installed, although not required by city code. The ballroom building is one of the few residential buildings in the city with a full sprinkler system. Emergency lights and a 24hr monitored alarm system were also installed.

Each wall that divides two lofts was fitted with an extra two layers of drywall for sound deadening and fire stopping. Where most residential buildings use one layer of 5/8” or even ½”drywall each side of a 2X3 stud, the ballroom has two layers of 5/8 drywall each side of a 2X4 stud. Careful attention was given to fire-stopping and electrolytic isolation of plumbing and gas lines throughout the renovation.

Expensive to buy but cheap to run, York ultra efficient heaters and AO Smith hot water heaters were installed in every loft along with ceramic tile bathrooms.

Each loft is unique, no two floor plans are the same and each floor plan is a result of a compromise between the original building, the needs of its new occupants, and city code
100 years after it was first constructed.

-Paul Joffe


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