Loew's Victoria Theatre

233 West 125th Street,
New York, NY 10027

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Christabel
Christabel on April 21, 2005 at 10:01 pm

An illustrated article about the history of the Victoria with comments by Michael Henry Adams is on line at www.villageviews.org Christabel Gough

MarcoAcevedo
MarcoAcevedo on March 29, 2005 at 11:53 pm

See Stanley Crouch’s column of March 27 in the NY Daily News regarding a proposed interactive Jazz Museum bidding for the use of the Victoria (against several hotel chains…. who, I’m guessing, would be much less likely to preserve the existing strucure in any meaningful way…)

View link

ASTANKH
ASTANKH on February 19, 2005 at 6:11 pm

The Haarlem Victoria Restoration Group, Kingsdale LLC was founded by Ethel Bates. Our mission is to get NYC Land Mark Preservation Comm. to designate Loew’s Victoria aka Loew’s 125th Street as a historical land mark. We need your letters of support. Send your letters to
Haarlem Victoria Restoration Group
P. O. Box 462
New York, NY 10027
or contact us by phone: 212-749-7299 or our website
www.haarlemvictoria.com

Movieplace
Movieplace on February 2, 2005 at 4:04 pm

I have spoken to the people at council member Bill Perkins office. The councilman is very supportive of historical preservation. He had a piece about landmark preservation in his latest newsletter which I coincidently received yesterday.
I asked the people at Mr. Perkins office if there was anything I could do, being a local business owner (Broadway & 105th street anyway), a member of Cinema Treasures.org, the THSOA as well as being the biggest Thomas W. Lamb fan (I took great umbrage when Jim Rankin refered to “the staid designs of Thomas Lamb”). The woman I spoke to was very receptive. We both agreed that Harlem has lost too many of it’s theatres and New York City has lost too much of Thomas Lamb’s work.
Maybe something can come of Mr. Perkins involvement.
Ms.Pogrebin is a customer of mine and our daughters are friends. She might be a help to this cause as well.

Ammaat
Ammaat on February 2, 2005 at 1:19 pm

I pass by this theatre practically everyday and it looks like a porno spot. This article indicated that the seven proposers only want to preserve the facade. The theatre is not only the facade, craftsmanship of this kind should be preserved. In their own (ESDC)correspondence they indicate that it is eligible for landmark status (nylovesbiz.com), but no one is pushing for it. Developers tend to stay away from landmark buildings thus you have D. Phillpotts saying that preservation is all fine and good but money is the bottom line. For who? I don’t see any community involvement or consideration for the neighborhood and the structure that they want to place on top does not blend in with the facade or the neighborhood. There is no respect for the History in Harlem only lip service. The community needs to speak out against these proposals and demand landmark status as there a few in Harlem.

chconnol
chconnol on February 1, 2005 at 2:04 pm

From today’s (February 1, 2005) New York Times:

February 1, 2005
Groups Vie to Reimagine Historic Theater in Harlem
By ROBIN POGREBIN

For years, the Loew’s Victoria Theater, a once-elegant vaudeville house and movie palace, has languished on West 125th Street in Harlem.

Just a few doors down from its famous neighbor the Apollo Theater, the Victoria went from being celebrated as one of the city’s largest and most beautiful theaters to failing as a five-screen multiplex that opened in 1987 and closed just two years later. Since then, the theater’s Ionic columns and terra-cotta rosettes have decayed and the stage has remained bare, except for occasional small theatrical productions or church services. The marquee recently advertised a lingerie sale across the street.

Now, seven teams of developers, hoteliers and cultural organizations are competing to reimagine the site as a major new entertainment-hotel-residential complex. New York State, which owns the property, is interviewing the applicants and expects to make a decision in March.

The Empire State Development Corporation, which is evaluating the proposals with the Harlem Community Development Corporation, its subsidiary, declined to identify the applicants or describe their proposals.

But documents obtained by The New York Times show that the state has narrowed the field to seven groups. Under terms set by the state, each team has enlisted an arts organization as part of its proposal, like the Bottom Line, the jazz club that recently closed in Greenwich Village; or the Jazz Museum in Harlem, which has yet to find a home. The development teams include hoteliers like Starwood and Ian Schrager; architects like Fox & Fowle, Davis Brody Bond and Lee Harris Pomeroy; and developers like Related Companies and Apollo Real Estate Advisers, which together built the Time Warner Center.

“This is a great opportunity for Harlem and more specifically for 125th Street as it inches toward becoming an even grander destination,” said Derek Q. Johnson, chairman of Integrated Holdings, which has partnered with Related.

But development projects involving historic buildings are often magnets for controversy, and the Victoria is no exception. While the theater has been deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, it is not a designated landmark – and the state is not requiring that the neo-Classical theater, with its ornate moldings and ceilings, be preserved.

“That is effectively a smack in the face to the community,” said City Councilman Bill Perkins, who represents parts of Harlem. “There is going to be a little bit of a fight on this, I can guarantee you.”

“That’s a historic theater, and we’d like to see proposals recognize that,” he continued. “The preservation issue is compatible with the development issue.”

At a meeting on Friday of the Harlem Community Development Corporation, the issue of preservation was addressed. While all of the proposals would involve retaining the facade, only two specify restoring some interior features. Michael Henry Adams, the Harlem historian and author of “Harlem: Lost and Found” (Monacelli Press, 2002), said he found this troubling. “Whatever happens, I would like it to incorporate the beautiful interiors of this historic Harlem theater,” he said.

In particular, Mr. Adams cited the elliptical anteroom on the second floor, the bas-relief decoration on the theater’s saucer dome ceiling, the long mirrored lobby and the theater’s gilded bronze and crystal chandeliers.

The 2,394-seat Victoria was designed in 1917 by Thomas W. Lamb, who built dozens of Loew’s theaters around the world and several Broadway houses. “It should not be allowed to be destroyed,” Mr. Adams said. “Were it restored, it would be one of the most distinguished theaters in New York.”

Over the last few years, Harlem has seen an explosion of commercial development, from a new Marriott Hotel to Harlem U.S.A., a retail center, both on 125th Street. Developers say there is still a demand for more hotel rooms as well for apartments to accommodate professionals. But some people who live and work in Harlem are concerned that the influx in large-scale development will compromise the neighborhood’s character and displace longtime residents.

Mr. Perkins argues that the Victoria development project – indeed, the overall influx of commercial building in Harlem – should not be mistaken for a larger revival. “These days, ‘renaissance’ is defined by real estate,” he said. “It’s not a term to describe an intellectual, cultural, educational rebirth.”

“What these people want us to do is be grateful that deals are being made,” he said. “The easy way out is to tear something down and put something up.”

Tensions are also brewing between the two agencies responsible for choosing a development plan for the site. Keith L. T. Wright, chairman of the Harlem Community Development Corporation, said his organization had been excluded from decision-making by the Empire State Development Corporation. “There has been no consultation whatsoever,” said Mr. Wright, also a state assemblyman whose district includes Harlem. “It’s plantationism at its best.”

“This is the last big development piece on 125th Street,” he said. “I just want to make sure some of my community groups are taken care of. They want a piece of the action.”

But Deborah Wetzel, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development Corporation, said that the Harlem Community Development Corporation had been fully consulted. “We’ve been working very closely with them,” she said. “We’re assisting them every step of the way; they sit in on every meeting and their board has final approval.” The Harlem Urban Development Corporation, a precursor of the community development corporation, acquired the Apollo and the Victoria in the mid-1980’s to save them from conversion to nontheater use.

Two of the proposals feature the Jazz Museum, which was founded four years ago to present exhibitions and further jazz education.

The proposal submitted by the RD Management Corporation, a real estate investment and development company, calls the Jazz Museum “the jewel in the crown” of its $116 million multi-use development. The proposal plans to retain the theater’s façade with a new marquee and overall design by Fox & Fowle Architects.

Taking a page from the new Jazz at Lincoln Center building at Columbus Circle, which – in addition to its main stage – includes a jazz club and a theater with a glass wall overlooking Central Park South, the proposal calls for a “jazz cafe” on the second floor for small ensembles. A bandstand would be framed by a large window on the 125th Street side of the building.

Now that Jazz at Lincoln Center is open in the Time Warner Center, the proposal says, momentum has been created for a Harlem-based jazz institution “whose aesthetic will be informed by the sensibilities of the uptown community.”

RD Management’s submission also includes a 150-room hotel that would house a gallery for African-American art and a Harlem-themed restaurant. “For example,” the proposal says, “the menu might offer a Zora Neale Hurston salad, a Romare Bearden pasta, a Miles Davis omelette and a Denzel burger.”

The Jazz Museum would also be the cultural centerpiece of a $123 million proposal by Integrated Holdings and Related for a 150-room boutique hotel – with Inter-Continental as a possible operator – and 90 residential condominium units.

Apollo Real Estate Advisers, along with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, has proposed a $103 million W Hotel with 156 rooms, 58 residential condominiums and 4,000 square feet of office space for the Apollo Theater Foundation. The Apollo Theater space would include rehearsal and education areas, a black box theater and an Apollo cafe. The architect on the project is Davis Brody Bond.

A proposal by the Victoria Tower Development suggests a $150 million B. B. King Entertainment Center with a jazz dinner club; an art gallery run by the Studio Museum in Harlem; and a five-star, 304-room hotel. The other groups in the running are Full Spectrum, which has proposed a $111 million complex including 78 luxury condominiums and two clubs – Victoria Small’s Paradise and 930 Blues Cafe with programming that reflects black and Latino culture.

Thor Equities, which specializes in urban real estate projects, proposes a $70 million complex, including boutiques like Armani Exchange, Club Monaco and Kay Jewelers; a revived Bottom Line club, possibly with a recording studio; and a 238-room hotel.

Danforth Development Partners proposes creating a $113 million new Savoy Ballroom with banquet space for 300 people, a 90-room hotel designed by Mr. Schrager and two new theaters for Harlem-based performing arts companies like Classical Theater of Harlem, Bill T. Jones Dance Group and the Harlem School of the Arts.

At the meeting on Friday, it was clear that several Harlem Community Development Corporation board members were worried that a treasured neighborhood landmark would be erased. One board member asked, “Can this theater be demolished?”

Diane P. Phillpotts, president of the corporation, replied that substantial changes to the building would require consultation with the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

“I understand the importance of preservation,” she said. “We also have to balance that against the economic development potential of the property.”

futurebird
futurebird on July 26, 2004 at 12:51 am

I just did a painting of this building. I’d love to do a painting of the inside… how do I get in?

(you can see the art here: View link )

ejarchitecture
ejarchitecture on May 26, 2004 at 5:32 pm

Has there been any mention of historic preservation, or is the Harlem CDC not interested?

William
William on May 19, 2004 at 7:01 pm

There is only two theatres located on that block. Yes, It is the Victoria Theatre they are asking about.

LaurenArch
LaurenArch on May 19, 2004 at 5:28 pm

I’m unfamiliar with this area and the theater itself, but I was wondering if anyone knows if this is the same theater that the Harlem Community Development Corporation is looking to redevelop? They released a public request for proposals last week (see below) but the address doesn’t seem to quite match.

Victoria Theater Programming and Redevelopment Options
Description:
Harlem Community Development Corporation (“Harlem CDC”) is seeking a qualified architectural team to assist with the development of a functional and space program, inclusive of conceptual / pre-schematic design scenarios, for a mixed-use project to be developed at the site of the Victoria Theater located at 235-237 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027.

The architectural team will advise on development options that shall be financially feasible and self-sustaining, including adaptive reuse of the existing theater, adaptive reuse with new and infill construction, and total redevelopment of the site. The program to be developed will include allocating part of the site to community facility uses such as a multi-use performing arts, cultural and educational facility and part of the site to a commercial use that is consistent with Harlem CDC’s goals for the redevelopment. These goals relate to the economic development and civic needs of the community, including job creation and job training, enrichment of the cultural life of Harlem, promotion of tourism and increased visitor spending at business establishments in the area. As part of the assignment, the architectural team will review existing architectural plans and meet with potential users of the community facility space to determine common requirements which could be accommodated within a flexible, multi-purpose facility.

joemasher
joemasher on April 24, 2004 at 1:53 pm

The whole Apollo/Victoria arts center concept was to be a project of Time-Warner, pre-AOL. It is my understanding that they’ve pulled out of the project completely, and it has stalled. A church group uses one or two of the Victoria’s auditoriums from time-to-time.

br91975
br91975 on April 24, 2004 at 3:54 am

Just to clarify a bit on the Victoria/MovieCenter – the original auditorium (or at least the original space occupied by the Victoria) was divided into five auditoriums, not six. (The still-existant frontage on the theatre’s marquee bears this out.) After having been closed for about a year and having been rechristened as the Victoria – albeit as the Victoria 5 – it reopened in the fall of 1992 (with one of its initial offerings being the film ‘South Central’). The new management offered up a policy of first-run films for about a year – while, at some point during that time, ceasing to program the Victoria as a fiveplex and instead as a quad – until closing up shop about a year later (and after months-plus runs of ‘Malcolm X’ – relatively logical – and, somewhat quizzically, ‘The Firm’). For the next couple of years, more ethnically-based films (such as ‘Sankofa’) were programmed into the Victoria, on only one or two screens at a time, until the theatre closed once again. Since then, except for possibly sporadic events, the Victoria has been closed, waiting for a savior – and perhaps a stronger economy as well, at which point perhaps the management of the Apollo will revisit the merger plans which were being discussed a few years ago.

RobertR
RobertR on February 25, 2004 at 4:46 pm

The hack up was done by the people that for a short time had that multiplex on 42 street right?

Orlando
Orlando on February 25, 2004 at 4:33 pm

Loew’s Victoria survived until 1975 or there abouts and when Loew’s departed the theatre closed. Brandt’s never operated this one. Most of the theatre survives with four boxes on the main floor and the balcony split in half (if my memory serves me correctly). The second level retains a lounge area with an oval ceiling of a painted goddess whose hand is reaching out, almost a 3-D effect. I was on the same tour as Warren and snapped a picture of the goddess before I heard someone downstairs bellow that no photographs were allowed. It would be nice if this jewel was polished and incorporated into the Apollo Theatre plan, but it will take a lot of money. The makeover from the Victoria to the Harlem Six was a hack job and that’s why it lasted a short while. I am assuming that because of the area, those owners felt any conversion was better than no movies at all. They were wrong and that’s why Magic Johnson’s Harlem Multiplex is doing well.

RobertR
RobertR on February 25, 2004 at 4:18 pm

I think the multip-plexing was a cheap one? That would help in not ruining too much of the original theatre. What condition was the place in? Is downstairs all one large auditorium?

WilliamMcQuade
WilliamMcQuade on March 20, 2002 at 6:58 pm

Believe it started out as Loew’s 125 th Street and again architect was Thomas lamb

William
William on October 7, 2001 at 7:22 pm

The Victoria is located on 125th Street next to the Apollo theatre.