Fabian Theatre

45 Church Street,
Paterson, NJ 07505

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pread
pread on April 15, 2006 at 4:24 pm

“Paterson” now back in print! (via www.bn.com et al)

“I never should have left Paterson,” comedian Lou Costello said in 1951’s “Abbott & Costello Meet the Invisible Man.” In fact, Paterson has been a place of comings and goings for generations, yet still manages to pull at the heartstrings. Larry Doby, who broke the color barrier in the American league, called it home. Among the many notables born in the “Silk City” were shuttle astronaut Kathryn Sullivan and actress Sue Ann Langdon, who played Alice Kramden in the 1962 version of “The Jackie Gleason Show.” What’s more, this city — an industrial giant once envisioned by Alexander Hamilton — gave birth to the famed Colt revolver, the modern-day submarine, the locomotives that linked America’s coasts and the engine that powered Charles Lindbergh’s “Spirit of St. Louis.” Its Danforth Library is a work of art in itself, designed by architect Henry Bacon, who went on to create Washington D.C.’s Lincoln Memorial in its image. Today, it houses an art collection — much of it the family legacy of Paterson’s own Garret Hobart, vice president under McKinley — that could earn it the name “Paterson’s Louvre.” There is also no shortage of local lore. The Ghosts of Eastside High School didn`t get that moniker by accident. The school sits on a one-time cemetery. And yes, Lou Costello couldn’t stay away, coming back for premiers at The Fabian. Philip M. Read, the great-grandson of a Paterson silk weaver whose family like so many others emigrated from Macclesfield, England, is a graduate of Boston University and long-time journalist who has worked for several New Jersey newspapers. His first job, in fact, was at the old Paterson News. Join him in this eye-opening and appreciative look back, mindful of what was and what still might be.

ThePhotoplayer
ThePhotoplayer on March 10, 2006 at 9:30 pm

Have you ever been inside the place? The office building is absolutely unusable. The (broken) windows have let all sorts of weather and critters in the place, and the walls are totally ripped up. Also, the roof of the theater wasn’t maintained and the ceiling is suffering from water damaged.

Ten years ago it could have been saved… not now. The death knell was rung when the great city of Paterson plummeted into its great depression. The community has no support behind the theater and it seems the only people getting any use of it are the bums that live in the back alley under the stairs.

That to me, my friend, is what unusable means.

ghamilton
ghamilton on March 9, 2006 at 3:23 pm

The building looked stable,if not sound.Is that an illusion?I’ve seen falling down ruins “saved”.This looks better than some that have been rehabed.I was surprised how bustling and busy downtown looked.(Although my employer has decided to get the heck out of Dodge and put their bldgs up for sale)

ThePhotoplayer
ThePhotoplayer on March 9, 2006 at 11:48 am

The status of the Fabian is unsavable.

ghamilton
ghamilton on March 3, 2006 at 5:04 am

I drove by the Fabian last week.It is a sad sight.This must be the focal point to turn Paterson around,or there is no point.If you could put potential in a bag,you could fill a landfill with the potential that is Paterson,but if there is no soul,a landfill is what Paterson is.

Mayeli
Mayeli on March 3, 2006 at 4:56 am

What is their any memorial for the Fabian Theater?

Mayeli
Mayeli on March 3, 2006 at 4:54 am

What is the status on the Fabian in this present day?

ghamilton
ghamilton on October 25, 2005 at 5:49 am

I can only pray that some group with smarts,vision and buckets of money can find Paterson before it becomes Port Arthur,Tex.Paterson could be the BEST place for many miles in all directions.I’m glad I work for a co.that appreciates the low overhead that Paterson offers.More capitalists could make the same discovery.It is an ideal location for the distribution of our disposable products(wipers,gloves,etc.)with the location,location,location.Has anybody ever thought of grabbing Trump and taking him on a tour of Paterson?

chconnol
chconnol on October 25, 2005 at 5:24 am

ghamilton: you hit it right on the head about Paterson. The place is like the land that time forgot. Because it’s so undervalued, the old buildings are still there albeit, some quite rundown.

The oddest thing is that the Great Falls is pretty much right in the downtown area and hardly anyone knows about it. It has to be one of the most amazing sites in the northeast.

musicrewind
musicrewind on October 25, 2005 at 4:23 am

Anybody out there have photos of any of the tgheaters that were in Paterson? I would love to include them in my book I am writing about theses treasures, Let me know.

BobFurmanek
BobFurmanek on October 24, 2005 at 6:09 am

Thanks for that image. Do you also have the inside of the program? I would love to see the program.

teecee
teecee on October 21, 2005 at 6:09 pm

Opening night program from 12/14/1925:
View link

ghamilton
ghamilton on October 15, 2005 at 5:45 am

Any place can be “cleaned up"if the will is there.Miami Beach was once a cesspool of vile filth.Everytime I’m forced to venture from VA to the bowels of downtown Paterson(I work for a Co.there)I am blown over by the potential there.The beauty of the bldgs still erect and the natural setting give rise to the imagination.I do have to admit to a degree of occasional real fear,since NJ doesn’t honor VA gun laws.The Fabian’s fate will be a sign of the real fate of this city.If there is no hope for the one,there is none for the other.

umbaba
umbaba on October 15, 2005 at 5:20 am

Exactly, plus the gang element waiting to mug the visitors pockets wouldn’t help either, which is why the people and businesses left. I know a person who was in the Fabian recently, said, the seats are still there, but the place is all waterlogged and falling apart but it provides a home to the squatters and crackheads looking for a place to shoot….maybe they should show a screening of “Man with the Golden Arm” …that would be a start

Julio
Julio on October 14, 2005 at 6:23 am

“Plus, to be brutally honest, downtown Paterson is not a very safe place, even in the daytime.”

Not safe in the daytime? that is ridiculous! Paterson may have a whole lof of problems, but theres is no to exagerate how woeful these problems are. The reason why the Fabian when out of business it was simply because it was not producing any money. When the factories started to move out of the city – and whole bunch of folks moved out – left the city in ruins with an immense number of empty building and unemployed people.

But then again it could have been all the lunch time muggings that scared the folks away from downtown.

umbaba
umbaba on October 9, 2005 at 5:32 am

Joe, In theory, I’m with you 200%. In practice however, Paterson is still Paterson and would take a long while to make people feel like it’s the place to go again. Even Newark, they still have trouble attracting even though they have NJPAC. But, I guess you gotta start somewhere.

musicrewind
musicrewind on October 3, 2005 at 8:07 am

As far as money is concerned, why can’t there be an adopt a seat program? anybody interested in adoptingt a seat would have a small plaque on the back of said seat. There are corporate sponsors just waiting to jump on programs like this, how about volunteers? People who have the expertise donating thier time and effort to save this place. It can be done and I would love to have help in getting a commitee together any body interested please give me a call 973-341-4740 Joe

musicrewind
musicrewind on October 3, 2005 at 8:02 am

Rhett, If this theater gets restored then Paterson will have no choice but to put pressure on the owner of the hotel to speed up his restoration project and then will get the fabian office building goins as well. The cosden building across the street was refurbished recently as well. It will bring theater groups in and in turn will leave Paterson no choice but to prioritize the safety and rebuilding of this area. Hey if Newark did it we can too

umbaba
umbaba on October 1, 2005 at 5:26 am

Joseph…I’ve written numerous letters to “The Record” regarding saving the Fabian from the wrecking ball. I know a Paterson cop who’s been in there and said the theater is intact, save for the separation walls, but it’s dilapidated. 2 big problems with saving this former palace:

1) Paterson is a $#%@hole, who’ll go there once it’s fixed up? It’s next to the crackden known as the Alexander Hamilton Hotel

2) MONEY

..I’m with you though, I’d hate to see the Fabian destroyed. It’s bad enough they tore down the Plaza.

musicrewind
musicrewind on September 29, 2005 at 6:10 am

Does anybody have the guts to try to save this once great theater? I do. If you have the desire to see this theater return to glory, then help me form a group to try and save it. The Friends of the Fabian Theater is what I am calling this and I welcome any and all who want to help. There is plenty to do and God knows this would be a huge undertaking but we have to try. Please if you have any contact information for the owner (s), or any helpfull information at all contact me. I would like to get together with people who want to save this theater. If we bring enough light on this , there are Angels out there that would help, Joseph Caiola 973-341-4740

elchicho25
elchicho25 on August 28, 2005 at 8:47 am

WOW I remember seeing Rambo and JAWS3D in the Fabian.. It was a good theatre back then.. It had a local feel to it.. Its a SHAME how a place as grand as the Fabian, could deteriorate like it has. I understand comapanies must do what they can to make profit. And that the BOE can make use of it as well.. How can we save the Fabian, and still make good use of it? Very Easy. LEase/sell it to PCCC. Maybe they can make a better use of it for their students. Parking wont be much of an issue because its for them. Maybe a few years from nowwe can go sit at the Fabian and see shows or student films, etc..

Dotty
Dotty on August 18, 2005 at 9:30 am

Hello I am also from Paterson I rember the Fabian The Garden US theater ect Sure do miss them all I moved from PAterson in 1978 and havent been back since I rember the Garden lol i was a ticket girl ther in the mid 60s Any one want to chat about old times in Paterson drop me a line thanks Dotty

nathaniel
nathaniel on June 27, 2005 at 2:55 pm

I was born in the Barnet Hospital in 1935. I have many fond memories connected with my having spent the early years of my life in the area near East Side Park.
Recently, on my 70th birthday, I decided to return to the old neighborhood. I had not seen the place for over 20 years. I was pleased to find that nothing had changed. The big yellow house where I grew up on East 39th Street still looks beautiful. People’s lawns are still beautifully maintained, my neighbor’s houses are equally spiffy and the flowers in the month of June are even more beautiful than I remembered. When I say that nothing has changed, I really mean nothing…except for the color of the people’s skin, who now live in the area.
I then biked through the rest of the city, and there too, found that Paterson seemed to be fixed in time. The public buildings are as impressive as they were. Of course, the Fabian theatre and the Alexander Hamilton hotel next door are in a very sorry state. But, hopefully, their facades will be upgraded in connection with their being recycled by new people with different purposes in mind. To me, it is as if the whole city has, for that matter, been continually recycled. Paterson is like an old Italian hill town which having passed its prime, still serves sufficient needs of those who inhabit it to have escaped being changed or destoyed. The discerning visitor will discover the most quintessential mill town in all of America

teecee
teecee on June 12, 2005 at 9:55 am

Arcadia Publishing, “Paterson”, p. 95 has a nice photo of the theater from 1954.

teecee
teecee on June 2, 2005 at 8:55 am

Guess this never happened….

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), Feb 19, 2002 pL1
SCREEN GEM; FORMER LANDMARK CINEMA MAY GIVE WAY TO SCHOOL BOARD OFFICES. (NEWS) Eman Varoqua.
Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2002 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

By EMAN VAROQUA, Staff Writer

PATERSON – Plans are in the works to convert the abandoned Fabian building, once home to an opulent theater, into the Board of Education’s central office complex. The 77-year-old theater that adjoins the structure could be demolished by this summer.

“This was the great movie palace of the 1920s,” said Passaic County Historian Edward A. Smyk, admitting that he doesn’t think the building at Church and Ellison streets would qualify for historical designation.

Philip Rabinowitz, a partner in the architectural firm that bought the building, W & C Properties, said he could break ground on the $22 million project in June if he receives local and state approval.

Supporters say the renovation of the non-theater portion of the building might help jump-start downtown development. The neighboring Alexander Hamilton Hotel was also purchased by Rabinowitz’s firm and will be converted into senior assisted living. The firm recently acquired the Pruden building across the street from the Fabian, which will be converted into a restaurant and office space.

“As an old Patersonian, I’d love to see this historic district once again bustling,” Rabinowitz said. “I hope it becomes like a domino effect – and other sites become revitalized one by one.”

For three decades the Fabian Theater served as the premier movie palace in the city and a cultural mecca that attracted its share of celebrities. It was the site of vaudeville shows and premieres of Abbott and Costello movies, and had Turkish baths in its basement.

Jacob Fabian opened the silent-movie theater in 1925 with the movie “We Moderns,” with Warren Yates on the Fabian Mammoth Organ. The theater had a 2-ton chandelier with 500 light bulbs, paintings on the walls, and ornate gilding.

Like much of the city, the 1960s were not kind to the Fabian. Riots drove out middle-class residents, scared off suburban shoppers, and left the theater struggling to fill its 2,500 seats.

It was turned into a multiplex in the 1970s. Still, it couldn’t compete with suburban theaters, and it finally closed in 1993. It’s been vacant since.

The remodeled building would house 250 employees on nine floors. A four-story garage would be built next to the complex and hold 190 parking spaces. The project would increase the building from 57,000 to nearly 100,000 square feet.

As proposed, the Board of Education would commit to a 30-year lease on the building. The terms are under negotiation, but it is estimated the lease would top $1 million annually. The move would put all administrative offices in one building for the first time, said Pat Chalmers, district spokeswoman. After the lease, the board would have an option to buy the building.

“It can only be beneficial to have the administration under one roof,” Chalmers said. “We’ll also be able to consolidate our leases.” Chalmers could not provide the amount the board currently spends on leasing.

The board rents space from Rabinowitz for its main offices, 33 and 35 Church St. Administrative offices are also on Ellison Street and at various schools.

Chalmers said Superintendent Edwin Duroy is in favor of the move and is working out the amount of the annual lease.

School board Vice President Juan “Mitch” Santiago wants the district to buy the building.

“If we can work out a price that matches around what we pay now, then why not?” Santiago said. “I can’t see how anyone would have a problem.”

Board member Joseph Atallo does not support the idea of a central complex, calling it frivolous.

“I need a lot more information before I make a 30-year commitment with Paterson’s money,” Atallo said. “I feel our priority should be building schools and providing classroom space to our overcrowded district. Educating our students comes before building a Taj Mahal office building.”

Instead, Atallo would like to see the board buy a building and develop it. “We should invest in a building instead of paying rent,” Atallo said.

Over the years, various city leaders have talked of reopening the theater and Passaic County Community College contemplated buying it as part of its expansion plans.

Property owners and real estate appraisers said the $10.50-a-square-foot price tag paid by the developers, or $598,500, is to be expected for a building that is vacant and will need a lot of work. Commercial space in Paterson rents for $12- to $18-a-square-foot, more depending on its age and location, they said. If the school board pays $1 million annually for the building, that will be about $10 a square foot.

Michael Seeve, the president of Mountain Development Corp., which owns 100 Hamilton Plaza in the city’s downtown, said he looked at the Fabian but felt it needed too much work.

“To get somebody in the Fabian building, you’re talking about a major investment before you could even get someone to walk in the door,” Seeve said. “That sort of impacts the value. We were daunted by the required work. It’s a great structure and isn’t a bad location. But it wasn’t jumping out at us.”

Last year, W & C introduced plans to restore the theater, but city officials shot it down, saying the area could neither attract crowds nor compete with multiplexes. The latest plan appears to have strong support, despite the concerns by historians and critics on the board concerned with the cost.

Despite the theater being demolished, Rabinowitz said he would keep much of the remaining building’s historic integrity. He said he is convinced that his vision for the Fabian will be a boon for the downtown.

But he also warned that he would walk away, should the Board of Education reject his plans.

“If this doesn’t work, then that’s it,” Rabinowitz said. “I’m not going to do anything with the building.”

Staff Writer Eman Varoqua’s e-mail address is