This is a great New York story, full of the history of one family’s relationship with the lighting business and the worlds of Broadway, television and the movies. It is all about a company called City Knickerbocker and it began over 100 years ago with a Russian immigrant named Adolph Liroff.
Liroff began his career in the lighting business by converting gas chandeliers, samovars and sconces to electric lamps for his neighbors. As his business grew, his talents at creating custom lighting was noticed by Broadway production companies and the Metropolitan Opera. Before he could turn around, he had developed a large following in the theatre district and with opera companies and was producing period lighting fixtures for everyone.
Segue to the 1950’s, Adolph’s son, Seymour takes the reins of the business, moves it over to Eighth Avenue and 48th Street. At the same moment in history the world is experiencing the rise of television. Before long City Knickerbocker was providing lighting for such 1950’s hits as Ed Sullivan, Perry Como, Sid Caesar and Jackie Gleason. Plus, their theatrical lighting and props business was booming and they supplied all of these items for innumerable Broadway hits, including West Side Story and My Fair Lady.
Twenty years later, Ken, Seymour’s son, grows the company to new heights as they now reach into the commercial design field and begin supplying custom lighting fixtures to large hotels and chain restaurants around the world. Then as the New York City film industry grows, so does City Knickerbocker’s participation in films being made there and they are connected with such Oscar winners as The Godfather and The Hustler. Add to this, working with the production crews of such TV hits as The Soprano’s, Law and Order, Sex and The City and Saturday Night Live, as well as assorted popular soap operas, and you can see that their impact in the entertainment business has been huge.
Interesting fact: City Knickerbocker provided the chandelier in the Broadway production of The Diary of Anne Frank that nightly crashed and fell apart during the performance and than had to be reassembled for the show the following evening!
So now you ask, what has brought me to City Knickerbocker? Believe it or not, they still provide some of the best lighting repair/ restoration services here in the Big Apple, and are a great resource to go to when you need to fix a broken chandelier or lamp. I personally used them to repair and restore the fabulous art deco Murano glass chandelier that hangs over my desk in my office…a family heirloom I am quite attached to…and always take my clients’ lamps there when the need arises.
I kind of like this little bit of a story about a design related business here in the city…hope you did too! Oh, and BTW, the present owner of City Knickerbocker is Scott Liroff. So as you see, everything is still ‘all in the family.’
Ciao, ciao ’til next time!