The Hammerstein Ballroom is part of the Manhattan Center Studios complex in New York City. It is located on West 34th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues. It's right next to the New Yorker Hotel and down the street from Madison Square Garden.
The Hammerstein was built in 1906 by Oscar Hammerstein as the Manhattan Opera House. Hammerstein wanted to compete with the Metropolitan Opera, and he did for four years. In 1910, the Metropolitan Opera paid Hammerstein to leave the opera business for a decade. Hammerstein sold the building, and it changed ownership a few times.
In the 1920s, the Scottish Rites of Free Masonry purchased the building and added a second ballroom on the top of the building. The mid-1930s saw Abraham Ellis, "the Hat Check King", purchase the building. Ellis changed the name from the Manhattan Opera House to Manhattan Center and performed some radical renovations to the Hammerstein Ballroom itself. Manhattan Center gradually fell into disrepair until its close in the 1970s.
Manhattan Center Studios then purchased the building and actually un-did some of Ellis's renovations. Ellis had sealed off the top balcony and covered up the original ceiling with a new one. The balcony was opened, the ceiling was uncovered, and a new floor was put in. Since then Manhattan Center has become a center for digital media with numerous recording studios, video editing studios, and things of that nature.
Walking into the lobby of the Hammerstein, one will find three staircases: two to the balconies, which seat 600 each; and one to the coat check room down below. A large door leads from the lobby to the main floor, which can fit up to 2,500 people without seats. This main floor is slanted slightly to make for better sightlines for the patrons at the rear of the house. The two balconies are also slightly slanted and very low and close to the stage (for a balcony, anyway). At the sides of the stage are six smaller balconies, often used for VIP areas during concerts.
Since the ballroom was designed for opera, the acoustic qualities within are excellent. Such qualities are difficult to describe in words, but let us say this: E-mu used the room as a model for a reverb unit.
The Hammerstein is on 34th Street. There is pay parking next door, but you can easily park for free on 38th Street, four blocks away. The stage door is on 35th Street, and is well marked. If you are comfortable waiting, you will eventually encounter the band you just listened to.
A decent diner is on the corner of 34th and 8th Ave. They are open at all hours.