Historic Ridgewood Theatre may earn Landmark Status on Jan 12, 2010 at LPC Public Meeting‏

posted by NativeForestHiller on January 11, 2010 at 7:45 am

RIDGEWOOD, NY — Queens' historic Ridgewood Theatre (55-27 Myrtle Ave) closed its doors in March 2008 without warning, but patrons & preservationists are now elated that the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a Public Meeting, where Commissioners will vote whether to designate the theater as Queens' newest Individual Landmark (façade). The Public Meeting for the Ridgewood Theatre (Agenda Item #3, LP-2325) is set for Tues, January 12, 2010 from 10:15 AM —– 10:25 AM at the Municipal Building, 1 Centre St, 9th Floor North, NY, NY 10007: http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/calendar/01_12_10.pdf

A hearing was held on March 24, 2009 as a result of a Request For Evaluation form and research, a letter campaign, a petition drive, and a MySpace Group coordinated by Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre, which was founded by Preservationist Michael Perlman after the theater’s closure in 2008. Testimony in support of Individual Landmark status was diverse and abundantly positive, and also included written testimony from Thomas A. Lamb, the great-grandson of Architect Thomas W. Lamb, who was tracked down by Chair Perlman. Co-owner Mario Saggese expressed his support for landmarking the façade, and also said the owners envision a historically-sensitive plan for the downstairs auditorium space consisting of retail to make it economically viable, with modern screens upstairs.

Opening its doors on December 23, 1916 and closing in March 2008, the Ridgewood Theatre was deemed “the longest continuously operating first-run neighborhood theater citywide, and potentially throughout the U.S.” It staged Vaudeville, silent films, saw the advent of photoplays, the first ‘100% All-Talking’ feature, Lights of New York (1928), & Technicolor. Its original seating capacity was 2,500, but currently contains 5 screens and seats 1,950.

Modeled after Times Square’s long-demolished Mark Strand Theatre (the World’s 1st movie palace), the $250,000 Classical Revival gem was designed by America’s foremost theater architect, Thomas White Lamb, & built by the Levy Brothers. The 3-story Indiana limestone & terra cotta façade is highly ornate, incorporating unique geometric patterns, medallions, a frieze, pilasters, and proudly boasts Ridgewood Theatre across the top. Interior murals originally depicted the history of Ridgewood.

Perlman explains: “Theaters are the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which bridge the generations, as they foster community growth and pride, harbor countless memories, and often exhibit the work of our country’s most skillful architects. Commissioned architects hoped to leave a long-lasting impression of grandeur, confidence, serenity, and comfort; a bold step away from the pressures of society.”

Perlman further explains “With the onset of DVDs, and vastly improved home entertainment centers, movie theaters with a minimal number of screens are a highly endangered species citywide. When sacrificed in the name of progress, their loss is most heartfelt. Local theaters with an unfortunate fate include the Oasis, Parthenon, Irving, & RKO Madison Theatre (retail), but the Ridgewood Theatre can be economically viable if preserved and adaptively reused for theater-related purposes. It would contribute to an up & coming neighborhood and a diverse borough.”

Historic & recent Ridgewood Theatre photos, courtesy of Chair Michael Perlman, Friends of Ridgewood Theatre: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8095451@N08/sets/72157606443928732/

Online Petition: http://www.petitiononline.com/RTheatre/petition.html

Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre MySpace Group: www.myspace.com/ridgewoodtheatre

  • Preservationist Michael Perlman
    Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre, Chair
    Four Borough Preservation Alliance Corp, Queens VP
    Rego-Forest Preservation Council, Chair
    Queens Preservation Council, Bd. of Dir.
    Central Queens Historical Association, Bd of Dir

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Comments (2)

CSWalczak on January 12, 2010 at 12:32 pm

UPDATE: The Landmarks Commission unanimously voted to give landmark status to the theater’s facade: View link

NativeForestHiller on January 13, 2010 at 1:22 am

Thank you for sharing this! A newer version of this NY 1 video featuring testimony is on TV, and will likely be posted online.

A Perspective on The Results………..

I attended the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s 1/12/10 Public Meeting, and I am elated to report that the historic Ridgewood Theatre was unanimously voted by commissioners as an Individual Landmark!!! My nearly 2-year effort under Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre as Chairman (since March 2008), in affiliation with various preservation and cultural groups, members of Cinema Treasures, and a mass audience, truly paid off! Now if only the LPC would change their position towards some other potential Queens landmarks, as well as that of other boroughs, in which properties clearly conform to the architectural and cultural provisions of the Landmarks Law, but they’re rejected without calendaring a property/properties for a most democreatic public hearing. Hopefully the Ridgewood Theatre will set off a chain reaction of positivity.

I took some photos, which are as follows: View link
The last 5 photos are from the designation, and they are titled in case the order changes when I need to update the photoset. The Ridgewood Theatre cause can be perceived as a case study in landmarking, advocacy, and community bond. It took a while to achieve landmark status. This is another chapter in the Ridgewood Theatre’s long, varied, and distinctive history, considering that it was deemed the “longest continuously operating first-run theater countrywide” upon its closure.

Now we must make sure that it remains in a good state of preservation in the long-term. It is essential to continue to be proactive. Thank you very much, everyone, for your support to date! Let’s call it “a great beginning.”

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