The building was originally built as the New York State Pavilion for the New York World's Fair, which opened in 1964 and came back for a second year in 1965. It re-opened as a theatre on October 25, 1972, with a production of Pygmalion, directed by Paul Shyre and starring Margaret Linn, Stephen D. Newman, Tom Clancy, Francis Bethencourt,Edith Meiser, Paddy Croft and Noel Craig. That production was followed by the New York premiere of the stage version of Twelve Angry Man, again with a cast of strong actors, this time directed by Martin Fried. But the theatre was not a success, and operations shut down a couple of years later, amid accusations of financial mismanagement. In the late 1970s it was taken over by Playwrights Horizon, which used it a second stage, trying to build a second audience in Queens. Productions were not generally shared between the Manhattan theatre of Playwrights Horizons and the Queens Theatre, although at least a few plays that had premiered at Playwrights Horizons in Manhattan were later revived in Queens.
The theatre underwent a $4 million renovation in 2003.