Germania Theatre, Eighth Street and Fourth Avenue, New York, NY

In the theatrical parlance of the day, the place was a Jonah, a hoodoo. Manager Adolph Philipp was able to lift the jinx but only temporarily.

Built at Astor Place, on property belonging to Sailors’ Snug Harbor, the building had been the Church of St. Ann’s, originally Protestant Episcopal and later Roman Catholic. The structure was sold to  A. T. Stewart and Company in 1871 for factory use. At the end of the decade, Jacob Aberle converted the space to a theatre, opening with an evening  of variety on September 8th, 1879.  It also served as a showcase for the questionable acting talents of his daughter Lena. The place enjoying a dubious reputation.

The New York Times, January 8, 1882:
“Aberle’s Theatre, on Eighth street, in the opinion of the Chief [Battalion Chief Bresnan, of the Fire Department], is a rookery that should be closed until it is so far rebuilt as to be in some measure safe. It is, in his opinion, a proper subject of inspection for the health and judicial departments, as it is one of the filthiest places in the City, the galleries being as he expressed it, ‘as dirty as the streets.'”

After being dark for several months, John Thompson took over management, first naming the theatre  Grand Central, a variety house opening on November 5, 1883. It became John Thompson’s Eighth Avenue Theatre with the play Ingomar on June 2, 1884 . Despite attempts at legitimacy, the place still enjoyed a certain air of unsavoriness.

New York Times, February 23, 1885:
“Capt. John J. Brogan, of the Fifteenth Precinct, made a descent early yesterday morning on John Thompson’s theatre and hotel, Nos. 145 and 147 Eighth street, and surprised about 120 persons of both sexes, who were taking part in or spectators of a degrading exhibition of the can-can.”

One production of note was Othello, presented on June 30, 1884 by the Astor Place Combination, “a company of colored actors.”  Closed for a year, the theatre was finally leased, from the Stewart heirs,  by John F. Poole.

The New York Times, September 4, 1886:
“The whilom church in Eighth street, near Broadway, which was degraded into a variety theatre, has undergone another transformation, and Monday night will take its place among the first-class theatres in New York under the management of John F. Poole and under the name
Poole’s Theatre.”

Poole expressed his “queer theory about the empty seats” to the New York Times, March 19, 1887. He had just found out that the contractor, who remodeled the interior, had employed non-union laborers.  Designed for the working people of the neighborhood, the theatre  now
“suffered from a silent boycott” by local audiences. Poole closed on September 1, 1888.

The theatre reopened briefly as a Yiddish house with King Solomon on September 21, 1888. A series of unsuccessful German productions followed at the beginning of 1889.  In November of that year, it became The Comedy Theatre followed by Kennedy’s Comedy Theatre in April 1890.

After having been closed for some time, the house, newly painted and redecorated, now known  as The Germania Theatre, threw opened its door on September 14, 1894 with Adolph Phillipp as manager.

New York Herald, April 6, 1902:
“Under Mr. Phillipp’s management the theatre has enjoyed much prosperity and some of his plays have had notable long runs.”

The theatre finally became a successful venue catering to the taste of German audiences. However the hoodoo, the Jonah still waited in the wings.

New York Herald, April 6, 1902:
“Another theatrical landmark is to go by the board. This time it is the Germania Theatre, in Eighth street, which is to come down for rapid transit improvements.”

Adolf Phillipp made arrangements for a new place on East Fourteenth Street, closing the Germania in 1903. The former church demolished a year later.

 

Postcard the collection of Theatre Talks LLC

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

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Irving Place Theatre, 11 Irving Place, New York, N.Y. 10003

Close-up of postcard, dated April 1903, showing the Irving Place Theatre.  As Amberg’s German Theatre, it opened on December 1, 1888.

The New York Clipper, November 3, 1888:
“The new Amberg German Theatre, now in course of erection, is rapidly approaching completion. In a few weeks it will throw back its doors, giving to the German population something it has not possessed in years-a truly first class German playhouse. Besides it will have the distinction of being the only one of its kind in the city. On its boards German actors will appear, German plays be produced and everything therewith will bear the Teutonic stamp.”

Excerpts from the New York Times, December 1, 1888:
“The exterior of the building has become familiar to the public eye during its construction. It is extremely odd and unlike most playhouses, looks exactly what it is-a theatre. Its architectural style follows the line of the old Spanish moresques [sic].”

“Entrance to the outer lobby is had through two large double doors. The lobby is handsomely decorated in the Romanesque style with Celtic bands. The floor is of Italian white marble tiles. The work on the wall is mainly in bronze and gold.”

“The minor lobby is reached through three wide swinging doors, heavily carved. Here the decorations are of greenish bronze, bordered with friezes of deep red.”

“The seating capacity of the orchestra and two balconies is upward to 1,100. There are five boxes on either side, draped with ashes of rose draperies, lined with old gold. The decorations of the auditorium throughout suggest warmth, the main walls, seats, and carpets being of red. The walls begin in a deep red, over which is a pattern in lighter shades of red and gold, ending in a deep frieze under a cornice of Romanesque style.”

“The curtain, painted by Carl Gieger for the Karl Theatre in Vienna at a cost of about $2,300, represents the triumphal entry of the muses. The house will be lighted by electricity. The ceiling is more richly decorated than any other part of the house. It is divided up into panels connected by bands and streamers. The prevailing colors are yellow, red, and greenish bronze. The proscenium is decorated in a similar manner.  The stage is 40 feet wide and 70 feet deep, and the proscenium opening is 34 by 38 feet.”

New York Herald, September 3, 1893:
“Manager Heinrich Conried, the new lessee of the Irving Place Theatre, formerly the Amberg Theatre, is now busily engaged with the opening of the house, which will take place on Saturday 30. The theatre has been entirely renovated and redecorated, a new electric light plant has been put in and a good many other improvements and when the theatre opens its doors it will almost be a new house in every detail. The first play to be produced is Blumenthal and Kadelburg’s comedy, ‘Grosstadtluft,’ which has met with success in Berlin and other cities on the Continent.”

The New York Times, January 21, 1962:
“One of New York’s old playhouses, dating to a time when Union Square was a theatrical district, is extending a varied career. It is being converted into a warehouse.”

Demolished in 1982 with the site becoming part of the Zeckendorf Towers

 

Postcard the collection of Theatre Talks LLC

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

 

Coliseum Cinemas 4260-4261 Broadway, New York, NY 10033

Plagued by financial difficulties, the Coliseum Cinemas quietly closed its doors at the end of October 2011. A rumor circulated in the neighborhood that J.C. Penny’s would move into the space.  A poster, on one of blogs, suggested that the area would be best served by replacing the historic theatre with an apartment complex including stores.

The Washington Heights Arts & Movies (WHAM) formed in late December to rescue and restore the theatre. It now boasts 654 members on Facebook.

Coliseum 2006 (photo copyright Betty Sword, all rights reserved)

Excerpts from the New York Clipper. September 29, 1920:
“When more than 3,100 people, or, as the official tabulator announces it, “3,500,” are sheltered under one roof in a new theatre, that house is a mighty big one. Which is what the new B. S. Moss-Keith Coliseum Theatre, at Broadway and 181st Street is; an excessively large and beautiful theatrical edifice, the construction of which, including the land, entailed an outlay of upwards of $750,000. Its opening last Thursday night with a combination vaudeville and motion picture program, tended to more closely cement the recent absorption by the Keith interests of the B. S. Moss theatres.”

“The Coliseum is the largest of  all the Keith houses.”

“With the great financial resources of the Keith interests at his command, Moss finished the new house in record time. And last Thursday night, those who attended the initial performance, did so in a beautiful edifice, the interior of which is finished in ivory, gray, old rose and gold. The walls and the ceiling are filigreed and on the ceiling, over the proscenium, there is a beautiful group in relief which is patterned like a huge cameo.

“The interior of the house extends in width from the front like a triangle, and despite its extraordinary hugeness, that portion of the orchestra floor extending in front of the balcony suggests coziness.

“The large balcony extends upward until it almost reaches the ceiling. There is a promenade above the orchestra floor which contains, besides retiring rooms, a special sort of salon writing room done in yellow with yellow brocade curtains to match. The furniture in this room is French of the Louis XIV period. Mezzotints by American artists adorn the walls.

“The dressing rooms, backstage, have every modern convenience, including pier mirrors. The stage itself has the most modern electrical equipment. Eugene De Rosa was the architect.”

“The orchestra pit, built to accommodate twenty-five musicians, contained nineteen men on opening night.”

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society

Claremont Theatre, 3338 Broadway, New York, NY 10031

The New York Herald, November 22, 1914:                                                                                  “One of the first steps toward the development of this section as a new amusement centre has been the erection by the Riverside Drive Realty Company and the Wayside Realty Company of the new Claremont Theatre, in the block front on the east side of Broadway from 134th and 135 Street.

“The new structure, which has a seating capacity of about 1500, was designed by Goetan Ajello, architect. It has a frontage in Broadway of about two hundred feet and a depth in each street of about ninety feet, contains stores on the ground floor, a dance hall and office, 75×75, in the upper floors and a roof garden, 75×125.”

“The theatre has been dedicated to the production of moving pictures. The operation represents a total investment of about $450,000, and the property has been leased to the Wallingford Amusement Company for twenty-one years.”

The Billboard, November 7, 1914:
“The handsome Claremont Theater, which was recently opened at Broadway and 134th Street, contains all of the latest equipments, including two Powers motor-driven projecting machines.”

The New York Dramatic Mirror, March 17, 1915:
“The first ‘Edison Night,’ which is to be a regular feature of the Claremont Theater, Washington Heights, New York, every week, showing all of the Edison releases for the current week, was hugely indorsed by an attendance which at 8 o’clock filled the 1,400-capacity house. Many exhibitors  were present to watch the idea and see all the films at one showing.”

“At the conclusion of the first evening performance the following Edison players were introduced to the applauding fans: Harry Beaumont, Bessie Learn, Robert Conness, Gertrude McCoy, Mrs. Bechtel, Robert Bower, Julian Reed, Frank McGlynn, Charles Sutton, Andy Clark, Mrs. Erskine, Frank A. Lyon, Harry Eytinge, Harry Linson, John Sturgeon, and director Ashley Miller.”

“The artists then partook of the feast prepared for them by Manager Dollinger in an adjoining ballroom, after which dancing was enjoyed, the players later meeting the theatre patrons in the lobby.”

The Claremont Theatre converted to an automobile showroom in 1933.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission, June 6, 2006:
“On the basis of a careful consideration of the history, the architecture and other features of this building, the Landmarks Preservation Commission finds that the Claremont Theater Building has a special character, special historical and aesthetic interest and value as part of the devlopment, heritage, and culttural characteristics of New York City.”

Above drawing and interior photograph from The World’s Greatest Achievement in Music for Theatres, 1916, reprinted by Vestal Press, 1964,  part of the  Theatre Talks LLC collection

For more on this neighborhood and the Claremont Theatre: Manhattanville: Old Heart of West Harlem by Eric K. Washington

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society

 

 

Montrose-Fox, 27 S. Cascade Avenue, Montrose, CO 81401

“The theatre [Montrose-Fox] is decidedly alien to the American scene in its design.” -Exhibitors Herald-World, December 21,1929

Excerpts from Exhibitor’s Herald-World, December 21, 1929:

“The Fox theatre in Montrose, Colo., is highly decorative in both design and furnishings, it is comfortably furnished, it has entirely modern equipment, there is a stage, and the seating capacity is 789. Yet Montrose has no more than 4,000 inhabitants, nor is it a suburb of a large city.”

“[The theatre] presents a very pure adaptation of Moslem architectural art, as applied to the mosque. It was designed  by Dick Dickson, Denver. M.S. Fallis, Denver, was the architect.”

“Passage from the lobby is into a foyer formed by a corridor curving around the rear of the auditorium. The walls are done in rough-finished plaster, with the expanse broken by arched window niches and arched doorways.”

“The auditorium has only one floor and relies principally on its shape and on cove lighting effects for its beauty. This chamber is vaulted, with a polygon painted centrally  on the ceiling, from the center of which is suspended a large chandelier. Two rows of coves, one above the other where the ceiling begins to converge upward toward the middle, run the length of the auditorium from each side of the proscenium arch. The latter is of the Moslem variety employed throughout the house. On each side of it, at the location of the organ lofts, Moslem bays project out, with niches shedding light from concealed sources.”

The theatre is still in operation as the Fox Cinema Center, a two screen multiplex.

Exhibitors Herald-World, December 21, 1929, is part of the Theatre Talks collection.

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

Gladmer Theatre, 223 N. Washington Avenue, Lansing, MI 48933

Considered one of the finest theatres in Michigan, the Gladmer  made its début in 1873 as Buck’s Opera House with E. E. Myers as architect.  It became Baird’s Opera House when Daniel Buck sold the space to James Baird in 1890.

Facing increasing competition from other downtown houses, the theatre was extensively renovated in 1910, becoming the Gladmer,  Fuller Claflin serving as architect. According to Lost Lansing the name  derived from the owner’s daughter and son, Gladys and Merrill.

Excerpts from the Cahn-Leighton Official Theatrical Guide, 1912-13:

F. J. Williams Manager

Seating Capacity:

Lower Floor: 575

Balcony: 432

Gallery: 500

Boxes: 60

Stage:

Proscenium Opening  36×30 feet

Footlights to Back Wall 42 feet

Between Side Walls 66 feet

Apron 2 feet

Between Fly Girders 54 feet

To Rigging Loft 72 feet

To Fly Gallery 30 feet

12 Dressing Rooms

The Michigan Agricultural College Record, April 19, 1918:

“At a house meeting in the woman’s building last week, new rules governing the girls’ attendance at downtown theaters were presented by Miss Arnot Lewis, president of the Women’s Student Council. Junior and senior girls may now attend the Gladmer, Colonial, or Plaza, unchaperoned, provided there are two or more couples in the party.”

Unable to compete with the shopping mall multiplexes, the Gladmer closed its doors in 1979.  One of Lansing’s finest theatres demolished.

Postcard the collection of  Theatre Talks LLC

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.

National Theatre, 111 East Houston Street, New York

The National will be one of the sites featured on my Footsteps of Yiddish Theater walking tour for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation on Sunday, June 8, 2012, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

It is free but reservations required: RSVP to rsvp@gvshp.org or call (212) 475-9585 ext. 35

 Meeting location available upon registration.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   The New York Clipper, October 5, 1912:
The new Adler-Thomashefsky National Theatre, on Houston Street and Second Avenue, opened in a blaze of glory on Tuesday night, September 24. The house was taxed to its capacity  besides there were many people standing.
On this occasion Boris Thomashefsky appeared in three acts of “Blind Love,” by Z. Libin;  Jacob P. Adler was seen as Shylock, in the last act of “The Merchant of Venice,” and David Kessler was seen as Schlomele Charlatan, in the second act of the play bearing that name.
“This house has about 1,700 seats, and was built by Louis Minsky and Max D. Steuer. It is a beautiful theatre with beautiful decorations, a roomy lobby and imposing front on Houston Street, facing Second Avenue.”

Photo of the national in the 1940s when it featured Yiddish vaudeville and “the latest in Jewish talking pictures”–“complete change every Friday” (part of the Theatre Talks LLC collection).

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the Year by the Theatre Historical Society.