ASK PLAYBILL.COM: A Question About Eugene O'Neill's Birthplace, in a Broadway Hotel

By Robert Simonson
20 Jul 2012

The story of the plaque honoring O'Neill is nearly as eventful as the life it honors. It was dedicated on Oct. 16, 1957, the anniversary of the writer's birth, at the northeast corner of 43rd and Broadway. The plaque was donated by José Quintero and Theodore Mann, who founded the Circle in the Square theatre company, which made it reputation reviving O'Neill plays and restoring the dramatist's reputation. It "was fixed to a pillar in front of a store building on the site, one of the most bustling corners of Manhattan," future O'Neill scholar, Arthur Gelb, wrote at the time.

The plaque was then lost in 1961. It vanished during the renovation of a shoe store that occupied the site. The contractors trusted with it had misplaced it, angering many in the theatre community.

A new plaque was introduced on Nov. 27, 1973, by Theodore Mann. Among those in attendance, according to an article in the New York Times, were Tennessee Williams, Geraldine Page, Brooks Atkinson, and James Earl Jones. There was a snag in the ceremony, though. The plaque was hung at 44th Street and Broadway, one block north of where the Barrett House actually stood. Director Jose Quintero and actors Colleen Dewhurst and Jason Robards were actually waiting on 43rd Street, thinking the ceremony would be there.

Nearly 40 years after it disappeared, the original 1957 plaque was found in the offices of Cushman & Wakefield, the property manager for Times Square Plaza. It was rededicated on Oct. 16, 2000, at the northeast corner of 43rd and Broadway, where it hangs today. According to Susan Frankel, who sits on the board of the Circle in the Square Theatre School, "The rededication in 2000 was attended at the very least by Paul Libin, Ted Mann, Arthur and Barbara Gelb and Martin Segal."