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Thank you very much for your kind words, Luis! If you have a chance, please sign, comment, & circulate the petition link above. It is open to all signers, and those from Ridgewood should prove additionally advantageous.
This is the rundown… It was not a public hearing. Some members of Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre met with staff members of Councilmember Diana Reyna’s office, to discuss our vision for the Ridgewood Theatre. We learned “the table is open,” and we are in the process of devising methods in which a restoration of the auditorium and lobby’s rare features could prove feasible, and be advantageous. The councilmember and owner is interested in hearing our ideas on funding opportunities, and we have an architect and The NY Landmarks Conservancy who is assisting us. We are putting our creativity to work, and hoping for a win-win for the owner, preservationists, and the entire community.
***Everyone: If you haven’t already done so, please SIGN & COMMENT on the petition to preserve the interior of the Ridgewood Theatre, designed by the famed Thomas Lamb in 1916. We lost too many historic theaters, & Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre and other groups are determined to do everything in our power to restore this theater. A revitalized historic theater = A community destination & jobs! The table is open, and timing is crucial to acquire funding for a restoration and potential creative reuse alongside adaptive reuse.
Please forward to EVERYONE that you know, and especially Ridgewood contacts:
You raised some great points in your letter to the editor, Jeffrey. I have also noticed a trend of local newspapers praising the developer and project as if “the theater” is being saved. Some newspapers tend to recycle the “nonsensical and questionable PR claims,” rather than introduce new, concrete, and thought-provoking facts. An investigation is needed.
Send a similar version of your letter to all local and citywide papers, since this is a citywide issue that merits rightful coverage for the people’s sake.
Jeffrey, I encourage you to write to both sources you mentioned, and regardless of whether you receive a response, it will be on the record. CC politicians too. Let the voice of the people be heard. Kudos!
Dave, superb work in drawing a comparison between the original blueprints and what features may be retained if developer Patrick Thompson & the politicians have their way.
I second your comment on how the developer does not seem to know what they are talking about. Removing the front for glass curtain slap would most likely mean sacrificing a wall of the original lobby. It is doubtful that the Landmarks Preservation Commission would permit that.
And I am sure there will be some type of wax figures of the political figures behind this, preserved behind glass for future generations too. If they want to mummify the lobby, they will cast themselves as well. Nightmare At The RKO Keith’s!
I am with you, Jeffrey & Dave. The photos in the Queens Courier are precisely what it looks like now. Not so bad afterall. The developers tend to exaggerate about condition to generate an excuse for demolition of what they want, and also say that something intact is in shambles to make it appear as if they are actually doing something. This is one such case study. Observe it citywide, and we will all see for ourselves.
This appears on the Rego-Forest Preservation Council Blog:
“Coming Attraction: Nightmare At The RKO Keith’s Theatre”
It takes into account the History At Sake segment with an article in Crain’s, & David He’s quintessential peace capturing sentiments & the vision of members of Rego-Forest Preservation Council & Friends of The RKO Keith’s Flushing Theatre.
Shall we settle for a Landmark or a glass high-rise rental with a curtain-wall lobby? Post a comment on the blog link, & spread the word!
The fact I disagree with is the need to limit what you can save. Putting tax credits, grants, subsidies, and low-interest loans aside (as helpful as they are), in many cases, incorporating existing features (restored over the long-term or not) into a new use for the space will prove to be more economical than the high cost of demolition and new construction, particularly in this economy. As a preservationist, you should strive for all remnant theaters, since there are far fewer these days to save. That is my philosophy, and we should do all that we can before any bulldozers potentially come. Thank you for your compliments in regard to my work. I am impressed with the rundown of theaters you mentioned, and hope many more will be saved.
I disagree. We should aim for the preservation and restoration &/or reconstruction of as much as possible from square 1, and do all we potentially can proactively & in the moment when necessary. Smaller scale theaters can be considered miniature palaces. America’s foremost theater architect Thomas Lamb’s greatest works in Queens include the RKO Keith’s Flushing Theatre & the Ridgewood Theatre; the latter of which is his earliest extant theater design. If you were in the theater in the late 70s, you would clearly recall the auditorium’s smaller scale palatial feel. The proscenium has since been unveiled. Never consider anything a lost cause. There are no bulldozers. Stand up for what the majority believes in! Even if the Ridgewood becomes a supermarket, there’s no reason a performing arts space can’t co-exist, likely increasing the building’s revenue. The supermarket can be built around the original architectural features(restored or not or restored over the long-term), giving the site a more distinctive environment with a historic customers for customers and die-hard theater preservationists & patrons.
You are right on target, Panzer65! Those types of people only see one thing, and that is not the community or a historic treasure. It would be great seeing a photo of the chandelier.
Read the above and you will see how the 2 Nicks are stating the Ridgewood Theatre is “beyond saving.” Keep in mind that it was a fully operational theater 2 years ago, and how carefully some of the multiplexing was removed to reveal the authentic 1916 Thomas Lamb features in 2009. That’s for the record!
Rediscovering the past of the silent theater in Ridgewood
Queens Rubbish Removal
Vintage oil can in the original projection room of the Rigewood Theater, which has been shuttered since 2008
I snatched an oil can from the projection room of the Ridgewood Theater, because soon, that will be the only thing left of it.
As you have probably heard by now, the historic Ridgewood Theater, which has been shuttered since 2008, may be turned into an Associated supermarket, according to news reports.
Since the building was boarded up two years ago, not many people are aware of the theaterâ€\s appearance inside because it is not open to the public. However, because of a demolition and garbage cleanout estimate I did several months ago, I have multiple photographs that I will post today on Trash Treasures of New York City.
Three layers of fabric wallpaper — the original wallpaper from 1916 was never removed
In July 2010, the real estate team in charge of selling the building hired me to provide an estimate for a full interior demolition and clean out of all of the contents that remained in the theater. I walked around the theater for an hour, jotting down notes and taking photographs of the theaterâ€\s conditions at the time. I saw all the little nooks and crannies and crevices from the basement up to the roof. Behind the stage, back staircases â€" I saw it all.
Balcony level hand rail with plaster ballisters
Nobody ever had access as far into the building as I did, so my photographs are rare. If you go into that building, you wonâ€\t necessarily walk where I walked because itâ€\s too dangerous. Iâ€\m in the demolition business. Nobody told me, â€œDonâ€\t go there.â€ I have to look at what I have to look at.
Arm rest of an original chair in the theater (found in storage room)
Recently, I sent about 100 of my exclusive photos to Nicholas Hirshon, a reporter for the New York Daily News. â€œThe photos show much of the theater is beyond saving,â€ Hirshon reported last week, â€œbut some carvings, seats and other aspects seem intact.â€
Operating projection room up to 2008
When I was walking through the building, I came across a projection room, where I saw several projectors that looked about 30 years old. I thought that these were the projectors that had been used decades ago, back when the theater first opened. I now realize that these were merely the projectors the theater was using before it was shuttered in 2008.
Ship ladder in closet that leads up to original projection room from 1916
As I kept moving through the theater, I discovered a ship ladder tucked away in a closet-like area. It led up to what I assume was the original projection room.
There were just three original projectors left, still bolted to the floor. There was a can of oil from the 1940s that had once been used to oil the projectors. The can was bright orange and said â€œGULF SAPHIRE MOTOR OIL.â€ Near a boarded-up glass window, which faced the stage of the theater, there was a cardboard sign that read: â€œOIL PROJECTORS,â€ which must have been used as a reminder for employees. I could tell that it was the original projector, just based on the construction of it. It had the look of an old Ford Model T car. Back then, when a car was built, it was very simple â€" you could take apart a car and put it back together in a day. Thatâ€\s how the projector was.
Sign that indicates projectors need to be oiled
Storage cabinet in projection room holding the theater’s last oil can
Original projector from 1916
In response to the Daily News article, Jeff Morrell, a sales engineer from Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., emailed me photos of the theater that he had taken in 1977. Morrell, 62, and his friend Carl Weiss, who has since passed away, were visiting the theater. They shared a passion for theater and pipe organs and wanted to check out the place. Weiss must have known the manager, Morrell said, because they were able to get into the theater before a show was playing.
Ridgewood Theater stage, 1977 (Courtesy of Jeff Morrell)
Weiss and Morell were particularly interested in seeing the â€œpipe organ that still resided behind the walls flanking the stage,â€ Morell wrote in his email. â€œWe wondered what was left and what kind of shape it was in. Although the console was long gone (we could not find it) most of the pipe work was still intact.â€
Carl Weiss, friend of Jeff Morrell, standing in front of pipe organ grill in 1977. (Courtesy of Jeff Morrell)
Through basic research, Morell learned that the organ was â€œbuilt and installed by the Moller Organ Company of Hagerstown, Maryland in 1917.â€ He said it consisted of a keyboard console and had 16 sets of pipes, each of which acted as a voice in the organ.
He said that at the time, the instrument cost $5,250 and weighed 16 tons. â€œAll pipe organs have what is called an Opus number which identifies it,â€Morrell said. â€œThe Ridgewood Mollerâ€\s was 2408.â€ Morrell and I later spoke for at least an hour, discussing the pipe organ and the past and present condition of the historic building.
The Ridgewood Theater
The Ridgewood Theater opened its doors in 1916, and stayed open for 91 years, according to a 2008 Queens Chronicle article, which was written directly after the theater was shuttered. The building was designed by architect Thomas White Lamb, who built more than 300 theaters worldwide.
The same pipe organ grill pictured above, except this one was taken in 2010 — 33 years later!
The theater opened as a silent movie theater, and the only sound that youâ€\d hear during a film screening was from an organ and a thunder sheet, which was a piece of metal that flaps in the wind to make noises.
After I provided the estimate for an interior demolition job for the theater, I believe that it is unable to be restored. It is simply too far gone and too destroyed to ever get to where it was during its glory days.
â€œItâ€\s a shame that the theatre has reached the end of its life as such,â€ Morrell said in his email. â€œBut, thatâ€\s life, I guess.â€
Stay tuned to WeLoveGarbage.wordpress.com for photos of the theaterâ€\s original bathroom interior and more!
DiMola Bros Rubbish Removal
1640 Summerfield St.
Ridgewood, NY 11385
DiMola Bros â€" Providing Queens junk removal services since 1956!
~ by dimolabros1956 on December 14, 2010.
Posted in Cool Find of the Day
Tags: dimola bros, dimola bros queens, interior demolition, nick dimola, queens, queens interior demolition, queens ridgewood theater, Queens Rubbish Removal, ridgewood theater, rubbish removal, rubbish removal queens, trash pick up, trash pickup
Thank you for the update Peter. This is quite perplexing!
Great quotes, Panzer65 & Peter! Very true.
You make a great point, Luis. Other theaters have been in a worse state and have been heart-fully restored. The Daily News article says that the condition of the interior was unknown until they took photos. I saw the interior with my own eyes, and it bears closer resemblance to its original glory than ever before. I was inside with the NY Times, also have photos to prove it. Architect Bryon Russell who drew up restoration plans, also has extensive photos to prove our point. Why does the Daily News reporter make a whole to-do over a demolition guy who found some artifacts? Instead of emphasizing the Adamesque and Greek Revival treasures that were miraculously unveiled after the multiplexing was carefully removed, and rather than covering the cohesive methods of the parties working together to retain and restore a most rare theater, they make it seem as if the theater & preservation cause is beyond hope. It shows what side the reporter is really on.
Thank you for your wishes, Peter! Let’s keep the faith!
Those who sit back and do nothing are called defeatists, which I am not. One should do everything possible until a settlement is reached.
This is the link to the Facebook Group for Rego-Forest Preservation Council:
Thanks for the video link!
It would be a major blow in the name of historic preservation if some of the rare auditorium features such as the back-lit proscenium designed by the foremost Thomas Lamb was torn down. Other features are grand columns, balustrade-fronted balconies with ornate plaster work, and angelic figurines. A treasure never diminishes in value, so it needs polishing. The theater does not have to be restored 100%. The major historic elements need a polishing. There is funding available for a more basic restoration, which will create a more appealing atmosphere for customers. The owner should take this into account. I hope to meet with him and other parties shortly.
Also, please join the Rego-Forest Preservation Council group on Facebook that I organized. We are hoping to save theaters and all historically distinctive buildings on the order of the Queens Theater. My blog is http://regoforestpreservation.blogspot.com I am the Chair & mostly cover Rego Park and Forest Hills hence its names, but see the larger picture of Queens is significant to cover as well.
Thank you for the update! It will be very disheartening to see the ornamentation gone from the historic terra cotta facade. Why do people destroy works of art? It boils down to being unappreciative and greedy, and in some cases, not educated. It is amazing how many church groups say they’re restoring some of our theaters, and the community believes them and ends up with a completely different product. Take what the Rock Church did to the Elmwood Theatre in Elmhurst on Queens Blvd, for example….They chiseled and paved over all the ornate glazed terra cotta detail with synthetic stucco (styrofoam) and betrayed the community. They told the media it is being restored. A pity! Please take photos of the Queens Theatre if you can. Thank you!
PETITION DRIVE! The Ridgewood Theatre facade has Landmark status, but Architect Thomas Lamb’s 1916 interior exhibiting RARE Adamesque details i.e. a backlit proscenium, angelic figurines & muses, etc. merit preservation, re-use, & funding prospects. Many details were only recently uncovered & a treasure was unveiled….only to be destroyed??? It may become a supermarket & undergo demolition.
Please sign & comment on the petition, & pitch it to your friends: View link
We are calling for a meeting with the owner, elected officials, and preservation & community groups, including my group, Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre.
PETITION DRIVE! The Ridgewood Theatre facade has Landmark status, but Architect Thomas Lamb’s 1916 interior exhibiting RARE Adamesque details i.e. a backlit proscenium, angelic figurines & muses, etc. merit preservation, re-use, & funding prospects. It may become a supermarket & undergo demolition.
Please sign & comment on the petition, & pitch it to your friends: