Majestic Theater

494 Seneca Avenue,
Ridgewood, NY 11385

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Showing 51 - 65 of 65 comments

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on August 19, 2004 at 9:51 am

OK, Bway, will do.

Here’s a link to an old image of Seneca Avenue five blocks southeast of the former Majestic Theater, facing southeast to the Seneca Avenue el station of the BMT Myrtle Avenue el station over Palmetto Street. The “DeKalb” trolley car is the predecessor of the current B-38 bus, and must have gone over the Brooklyn Bridge to “Park Row” in downtown Manhattan, as well. Note the cobblestone paving of Seneca Avenue :

http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/show?30992

The Wyckoff Theater stood at 247 Wyckoff Avenue, eastern corner of Wyckoff Avenue and Bleecker Street. It was before my time, so my earliest memory of it is as a Jehovah’s Witnesses Hall, about 1960 or 1961. My oldest aunt went there with her mother to see “Seven Brides For Seven Brothers” for an adult admission of ten cents. It was not air conditioned at first, but my oldest aunt recalls going there as a kid in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s for a nickel, and having a “grand old time” there, seeing double features with cartoons, newsreels and short subjects.

I thought the Colonial in Bushwick had its own page here, until I tried to go there and didn’t find any !

Bway
Bway on August 19, 2004 at 9:37 am

Please add pages for those theaters too, you know a bit more about them than I do, so your descrpition obviously would be much better.
DO you know anything about The Wyckoff, I don’t think that one is listed either.
I didn’t even know the Colonial didn’t have a section yet!

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on August 19, 2004 at 9:04 am

Glad you’re on the case, Bway !

BTW, I just submitted a page to this site for the Colonial Theater at 1746 Bway (at Rockaway Avenue, and Chauncey St. in Bushwick). I hope your recent photo of it, as the Wayside Baptist Church, and information on it, supplied by Warren, on the RKO Bushwick and other pages on this site, eventually finds its way onto the new Colonial Theater page.

Perhaps I should also submit pages for the Decatur, Empire, and Monroe Theaters, while I’m at it.

Bway
Bway on August 19, 2004 at 8:26 am

Lostmemory, this is very interesting. I always knew about the tracks of the LIRR Evergreen Branch between Irving and Wyckoff, but never knew about the ones next to Seneca. They were probably a freight siding branching from the Bushwick branch about 13 blocks to the north. I am sure that obviously the Right of Way for those tracks did limited the depth of the Majestic Theater.
This is interesting though. I will do some more research on this.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on August 19, 2004 at 8:12 am

lostmemory, thanks for the additional detail about the tracks between Cypress and Seneca. All I can think is that they either led into the car barns at Seneca and Dekalb or the Bushwick Branch of the LIRR. Beyond that, I’m stumped.

This might be a job for Kevin Walsh’s “Forgotten NY” site, or Tom Scannello’s “Forgotten NYC” site.

My parents, aunts and uncles remember the Car Barns well. I think there was also a vacant lot there that circuses and carnivals would set up their tents on. I think it’s a playground and running track now.

RobertR
RobertR on August 19, 2004 at 8:02 am

It’s almost ironic in the 50’s that the big barns remained and the smaller houses closed. In a few short years those small theatres would become the norm. I cant wait to hear what The Majestic was like inside. I had friends over there for years and did not know it was a former theatre all the times I passed it. I always thought the marquee looked theatre like. This must have been a cute place when it was open, I bet it never had air-conditioning like the Glenwood.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on August 19, 2004 at 7:33 am

lostmemory, I never knew there were train tracks behind the Majestic Theater (between Seneca and Cypress Avenues). All I can think is that they were trolley tracks.

The northwest to southeast tracks that ran parallel to and between Wyckoff and Irving Avenues began in the late 19th century as the Evergreen Branch of the Long Island Rail Road. They then became a freight line, connecting Bushwick Terminal at Bushwick and Montrose Avenues to the Connecting Line + Bay Ridge LIRR east of Cooper Street, near where the 14th Street Canarsie Line comes out of the ground between Halsey St. and Wilson Avenue stations. I and my family knew them as the “dummy tracks”. They serviced local industry such as Dietz Coal and Fuel Oil, and Tulnoy Lumber, at Ridgewood Place, between Putnam Avenue and Palmetto Street, and Wyckoff and Irving Avenues.

My mother grew up near the “dummy tracks” on Harman Street, and, as a girl, liked to put pieces of glass on the tracks, and watch passing
trains crush them to powder. I last remember trains on those tracks on a clear sunny morning in October 1962.

As to the size of theaters in Ridgewood, some were small, others were built larger, deliberately. From 1945 to 1955, television seemed to have put the smaller theaters, like the Wyckoff, Parthenon, Majestic, Glenwood, and the Grandview, out of business.

Bway
Bway on August 19, 2004 at 4:19 am

I forgot what the buildings to the right of the Magestic looked like. If I remember correctly (gee it was only yesterday!), there is still an empty space to the right of the theater, but I can’t picture what the buildingnext to it lookd like, I was too busy looking at the theater building. I didn’t get out of my car, and again, unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me. I plan to be back in Ridgewood in a couple weeks, and will give an update then, and hopefully take a few photos.

Bway
Bway on August 18, 2004 at 12:35 pm

Well, today I had to go to Kew Gardens on business, and decided to take a detour to Ridgewood (as I usually do when I am in Queens or Brooklyn), and drove down Seneca Ave. The Majestic is indeed 494 Seneca Ave, it says it in big numbers right under the door. The old film paper must have had a typo. There are just your typical “Ridgewood” turn of the century homes where 424 would be, so I doubt there were two theaters within a few blocks of each other.
Anyway, it was a very small theater as lostmemory mentioned. The marquee still exists, and it has “Seneca Chapels” written on it. I couldn’t tell if it was still a funeral parlor, or if the building was vacant. It wasn’t really run down, but it wasn’t in “pristine” condition either. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera today, so didn’t get a photo. I may be back to Ridgewood in about two or three weeks, so may snap a photo of it then.
Peter, you are right about the theater, especially such a small one such as this, having a good after use as a funeral home. I don’t know what it looks like inside, but can just picture the casket on the “stage” with everyone looking over to it. A bit sad that people used to come to this theater to laugh, and now they come to cry. A big difference.
I also wonder when they stopped playing movies in it. The Seneca Chapel sign does look like something out of the 60’s.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on August 18, 2004 at 12:28 pm

lostmemory, I received your private e-mail with the picture. Thanks.

Your comment above, and the reasoning it contains, is the essence of the detective work of “urban archaeology”. Keep up the good work !

Here’s the e-address of the Internet Movie DataBase, if you don’t already have it, for further film research :

www.imdb.com

I have an e-pal who graduated Franklin K. Lane High School, on the Cypress Hills-Woodhaven, Bklyn-Queens, border, in 1954. I could ask him about movie ticket prices for kids when he was a kid.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on August 18, 2004 at 10:46 am

lostmemory, my e-mail address is :

.army.mil

Please e-mail me the photo of your sister in front of the Majestic.
Thank you.

I’ve written lots of personal things on the Ridgewood Theater page, and, so far, nothing bad has happened as a result.

I graduated St. Francis Prep, Bklyn NY, in June 1973, the next-to-last all boys class and also the next-to-last class to graduate from the old building in Williamsburg, Bklyn.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on August 18, 2004 at 10:33 am

The Majestic is listed in the 1926 Film Daily Year Book, the first one to give addresses and seating capacities for movie theatres operating in the Greater New York area. Given that early date and its small seating capacity, the Majestic probably started as a nickelodeon, of which Ridgewood had many.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on August 18, 2004 at 10:10 am

lostmemory, I’m glad you liked my idea. I’m also glad it’s now been estabished beyond any reasonable doubt that 494 Seneca Avenue was indeed once the Majestic Theater. Will you be posting that photo of your younger sister in front of the Majestic on this page ?

By all means, try to find answers to your questions. The Old Timer of The Times Newsweekly may be a good place to start. He seems fairly knowledgable. You may not find answers to all your questions, but, if you never ask any of them, of anyone, you will never find answers to any of them.

Now that it’s been said repeatedly that the Majestic Theater became a funeral home, I’m expecting a comment from Bway about how a funeral home compares to a church as a post-theater function of a building that was originally built as a theater. How is a funeral home like a theater ? One comes to view the body of a loved one instead of a film. There are seats. It’s dark, quiet, sometimes there’s organ music. The body is a focal point of the grief and mourning and remembrances of the patrons, just as cinema spectators press their emotions and fantasies upon the images on the screen.

A similar comparison can be made between a theater and a church.

PeterKoch
PeterKoch on August 18, 2004 at 9:04 am

lostmemory, why not e-mail or paper-mail write to The Old Timer at the Times Newsweekly, and ask how to get in touch with the person who mentioned the Majestic Theater in the May 13, 2004 installment of the “Our Neighborhood” columnn ?

I’m feeling more and more like the “new Old Timer” !

Bway
Bway on August 17, 2004 at 6:24 pm

Lostmemory, you should copy and paste that great childhood story about the Magestic you put in the Madison section here about the handballs and stuff. It is so interesting that the building stood vacant for so long.
At some point the Magestic was converted to a Funeral Parlor. Is it still a Funeral Parlor today?