Monday, March 10, 2008

Greenpoint Brooklyn

Sometimes I manage to find something on a blog which catches my interest and this entry is one of those “something’s”. I don’t know why it was of interest but I found it worth reproducing here. What the author writes about the places we remember from the old days disappearing or changing use it so very true.

It is always interesting to see old buildings that were once used as something else and see how they are used today. I think of two examples, one of which is a very old building in historic Milford Pennsylvania. It is located in the middle of town and is a beautiful structure. It dates back to, I believe the mid nineteenth century.

An ancestor, a relative of my mothers’ family visited Milford sometime in the early nineteen hundreds. The relative mailed home a postcard that featured that building. It shows what the town looked like then with the road being dirt.

Today that building serves as home of a number of touristy shops but it is very much the same on the outside. The main difference is that you can see how the street, when still dirt, was higher than today. It even has a clock tower of sorts and makes me think of how they featured the clock tower in the trilogy “Back to the Future”.

The street elevation back then would explain the rather odd configuration of the steps down to the current street elevation at that corner. Apparently someone decided that the street needed to be lowered and leveled at that intersection when the street was paved.

Today the local business improvement authority is in the process of putting old style street lighting in the shopping district of Milford. It really is nice that people try as best they are able to preserve some of the old. It is sad to see some older structures torn down to make way for the new.

The other building which I mentioned of note, at least to me, is a place in Paramus, New Jersey. That area is home to many stores and shopping malls. Right outside of the Paramus Park Mall is an old building which is now home to one of a chain of discount furniture stores, Bobs' Disount.

But during my childhood it was known as the Paramus roller skating rink where my grandmother and my mother were the organists. I spent many a happy hour racing around that rink. Of course the guard, who was a longtime friend of the family and someone who at one time was on the same skating team as my mother, would look the other way while I broke a few of the rules.

In any event, here is the blog article about Greenpoint which I reproduce sans permission. So after you read this go there and peruse the blog of
Linacassius’s Weblog. I hope that you find something which interests you there.

When I first moved to Greenpoint, the northernmost neighborhood of Brooklyn, in 2004, one of my first frustrations with my new neighborhood was that there weren't any movie theaters nearby. In When I first moved to Greenpoint, the northernmost neighborhood of Brooklyn, in 2004, one of my first frustrations with my new neighborhood was that there weren't any movie theaters nearby. In this age of video rentals and Netflix, when you can have a steady stream of DVDs flowing in and out of your mailbox, as well as your DVD player, you might not think that a paucity of movie theaters within easy walking distance would be a problem. Yet it is. Especially because Greenpoint was once the proud home of six movie theaters.
Six movie theaters! In less than two square miles. Some of the structures have been torn down and replaced with other buildings. Others have been refurbished and put to other uses that still allow visitors to detect some of the original features.
Drawing on a variety of sources, here's what I've been able to learn about the long-gone movie theaters of Greenpoint. I've organized this as a walking tour of sorts, but you don't need to explore them in this order. If you're interested in following the easy-to-follow route I've mapped out, start at the Nassau Avenue subway stop on the G line.
Our first stop is a few shops east of Manhattan Avenue on the south side of Nassau Avenue. Pass two bodegas and the pizzeria, and take in what is now Princess Manor.
Nassau Theatre
88 Nassau Ave.
Screens: 1
Seats: 599
A movie theater operated here between about 1910 and 1953. It is now a catering hall.
The next stop is a little out of the way, so you might want to skip it or save it for when you have more time. Regardless, if you continue walking east on Nassau Avenue, you'll eventually reach Russell Street and McGolrick Park (formerly Winthrop Park). The park is worth some exploration in its own right because of the pavilion designed by Helmle and Huberty, a World War I memorial, and the Monitor and the Merrimac sculpture. Across from the southwestern corner of the park is a Met supermarket. It wasn't always a grocery store.
Winthrop Theater
135 Driggs Ave.
Screens: 1
Seats: 580
Between 1922 and 1959, this movie theater showed late-run movies. It featured a Wurlitzer organ Opus 599 Style 135A. In 1961, the theater became a grocery store.
Now, head back to Manhattan Avenue by heading west on Driggs. Once you reach Manhattan, take a right and walk north along the west side of the street. The rest of our stops all line Greenpoint's main drag, Manhattan Avenue.
Meserole Theatre
723 Manhattan Avenue
Screens: 1
Seats: 1,200
Luckily, this theater still remains in some shape and form. Despite a conversion into a roller skating rink and then its current incarnation as an Eckerd drug store, you can still see elements of the original auditorium from a vantage point in the back of the store. Behind the cosmetics counter, you can see the outline of the original screen on which they now project slides about sales, and the ceiling still supports a mirrored disco ball from when it was a roller rink. The pharmacy is located beneath what was once the balcony. While promoting the Batman movie in the mid-'60s, Adam West and Burt Ward made an appearance at the theater with the Batmobile.
Continue north.
RKO Greenpoint
825 Manhattan Avenue
Screens: 1
Seats: 1,673
Opening as a vaudeville theater in 1908, the Greenpoint became a full-time movie theater around 1925 and may have been the grandest of Greenpoint's theaters. In direct competition with the Meserole, the theater featured an ornate auditorium featuring ceiling murals and a proscenium arch. Three levels of boxed seats were located on either side of the stage, and there were two balconies. When RKO acquired the theater, it showed first-run double features. Music was performed on a Wurlitzer organ Opus 1113 Style E. In 1961, Jerry Lewis appeared at the theater to promote his new movie “The Ladies Man.” The building has since been demolished.
Cross to the east side of Manhattan Avenue.
American Theater
910 Manhattan Avenue
Screens: 1
Seats: 592
Other names: Chopin Theater
For most of its life, this theater showed second-run movies. Advertised as a twin theater, the American had only one screen. The house charged different admissions for each film, and the staff would clear the theater of viewers between each screening. One former resident remembers the theater being replaced by a Polish theater that continued to screen movies into the '80s. The layout of the building is somewhat confusing. There were two entrances, one on Manhattan Avenue and one on the Greenpoint Avenue. There was also a billiards hall — and later, a bingo hall — located upstairs, and until earlier this year, a Burger King filled the old lobby area. Now Quest Diagnostics takes up the ground floor, and Club Exit, a dance club, takes up much of the old bingo hall space. Be sure to look for the sculpted Eagle perched at the peak of the building's roof on the Manhattan Avenue side.
Continue north on the west side of the street.
Midway Theater
1059 Manhattan Ave.
Screens: 1
Seats: 598
Other names: Manhattan Theatre
Located between Freeman and Eagle streets, this movie theater was active at least between 1938 and 1954. Even though the closest movie theater, the Loews Kips Bay — as the crow flies — is across the East River, the ghosts of Greenpoint's cinematic past linger on and can still be seen every day.
Special thanks to
Cinema Treasures.com and Greenpt.com for much of the above information. Any errors are my own.
by linacassius

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