The Booth Room

Called by Edwin Booth his “nest among the treetops of Gramercy Park,” the third floor suite is where he lived his final five years after opening The Players. The parlor and bedroom have remained in the manner of his life there, furnished largely as they were when he died in 1893, just five months before his 60th birthday. Among the artifacts are items of his everyday life, including several of the pipes and cigars he loved. Lighting fixtures over the dining table and on the north wall were dual-source, with electric lights cast downward and gas burners upward.

Many of Booth’s personal treasures are here, reminders of both his great theatrical career and his family tragedies. On the wall in the far corner of the parlor is a portrait of his first wife and great love, the beautiful actress Mary Devlin, who died young after only three years of marriage. Beneath her portrait is a bookcase, atop which rests the skull of Yorick that Booth saluted hundreds of times while playing Hamlet. This particular skull has a legend attached that is among the best-loved bits of Players storytelling.

Between the parlor windows, a bust of Shakespeare looks down over Booth’s roll-top desk; over it is a rubbing of the legend under Shakespeare’s tomb at Stratford. On the table are Booth’s cigar case, a bronze casting of his daughter Edwina’s hand in his, and the book of poetry by William Winter open to the page he was reading before he died.

In the bedroom is the actor’s brass bed with its faded silk coverlet and its canopy of yellow satin, and beside it rests his slippers. Between the window and bed is a Queen Anne-style ebony wood chaise and nearby is a Chippendale bureau. A shadow-box tribute to Booth is mounted on the wall behind the chaise.

The artifacts and ephemera in the Booth Room memorialize and celebrate his life in the theatre, and provide the opportunity for Players and guests to step into a frozen moment of the past.

The first phase of a multi-year conservation project for the Booth Room has recently concluded, overseen by The Players Foundation for Theatre Education. Tax-deductible and grant support for the next steps in restoring and preserving this unique 19th century space is welcomed by the Foundation.