Brooklyn Academy of Music, 176 Montague Street, Brooklyn, New York


Excerpts from the Architectural Record, October 1908, on architect Leopold Eidiltz:

“The Academy of Music in Brooklyn was its author’s most important secular work up to that time. Confined to a single street front, parallel with the axis of the interior, it was an attempt, then novel on this side of the ocean and not common on the other, to express a theatre in its exterior.”

The opening night concert took place on Tuesday, January 15, 1861. In a speech to the audience, Samuel B. Chittendon, president of the Academy’s directorate, stated:

“Let me say here, that no one of us purposed to build a theatre, nor do we propose to allow this building to be used for theatrical purposes. But, we saw that we needed a large public building for our Philharmonic Society, operatic entertainments, concerts, lectures, our Horticultural Society’s flower shows and those exhibitions, in which the citizens of Brooklyn delight” (The Brooklyn Eagle, January 16, 1861).

A lengthy debate ensued with many people writing the local papers with their thoughts on theatrical performance in Brooklyn.  Editorially the Brooklyn Eagle was staunchly pro-theatre.  Finally on December 23, 1861, the Academy of Music presented Hamlet with E. L. Davenport in the title role and  Julia Bennett Barrow as Ophelia.

The Brooklyn Eagle, December 24, 1861:

“Shakespeare’s tragedy of Hamlet was performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last evening. We deem it proper here at the commencement to state the fact explicitly, in order that should the city be overwhelmed by an earthquake any time during the day there may be no mistake in attributing the visitation to the true cause.”

The Brooklyn Eagle, October 2, 1884, on the renovation of the Academy:

“The old Academy was in design and nature like the boy’s dog-pure mongrel. The design was supposed to be Morrish but wasn’t. There was much that was Moorish about it but that much was sadly marred by an intermingling of somber Dutch and heavy designs of the like.”

On November 30, 1903, the Academy of Music was destroyed by fire.

The New York Times, December 1, 1903:

“It was one of the swiftest destructions that Brooklyn has ever known, the great auditorium being a seething sea of flame within twenty minutes…”

The Brooklyn Eagle, December 1, 1903:

“The cause of the fire is still more or less a mystery and the officials have little hope of satisfactorily solving it.”

A motion picture Burning of the Academy of Music, Brooklyn, was released by American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, December 1903.

A history of the original Brooklyn Academy of Music can be found in the second volume of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society of America.

Postcard part of the Theatre Talks LLC collection.



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