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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:
Nov 25, 2010
Supermarket May Be The Next Act At The Ridgewood Theatre
Moviehouse Sold To Jackson Heights Investors
by Robert Pozarycki
A new supermarket may soon be opening its doors at the historic and vacant Ridgewood Theatre.
The Times Newsweekly was informed on Wednesday morning, Nov. 24, that the former moviehouse on Myrtle Avenue between Madison Street and Putnam Avenue was recently purchased by a group of entrepreneurs based in Jackson Heights who plan to open an Associated supermarket at the location.
The exterior of the theater, located at 55-27 Myrtle Ave., was recently given landmark status by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. It closed in March 2009 after serving as a multiplex theater for many years.
While the faÃ§ade and the marquee of the theater must remain as they are as a result of the landmark declaration, the new owners of the buildings may remodel the interior as they see fit, according to Paul Kerzner, incoming president of the Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association.
â€œI would dare say that they would have to level the floors inside the theater, otherwise everything would be on a 30-degree angle,â€ Kerzner told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview. Local business and civic leaders with knowledge of the sale noted that they have yet to see any plans for what the new owners plan to do with the building.
Under existing zoning laws for the site, it was noted, a supermarket with up to 17,000 sq. ft. of retail space could be created within the theater.
Ted Renz, executive director of the Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District, hoped that a deal could be struck with the new ownership to allow for the upper floors of the vacant theater to be used as a community exhibition space for artists. The idea was pitched originally by groups in Ridgewood and Bushwick during a walking tour of the former moviehouse in April and garnered some support among local leaders.
Overall, Kerzner expressed a favorable view of the purchase and potential development of an Associated supermarket at the Ridgewood Theatre.
â€œWe could have done a hell of a lot worse in terms of what could have gone in there,â€ he said, noting that among the ideas presented and rejected for the site included a charter school, a drug treatment counseling facility and condominiums.
â€œThis seems to be the best use. Itâ€™s actually helpful since there isnâ€™t a large supermarket in that end of Ridgewood,â€ Kerzner added. â€œIf they market it right, they can do very well.â€
This paper attempted to contact the attorney representing the supermarket developers on Wednesday morning, but the lawyer was not available for comment before press time.
John D. has had some great suggestions. The facade has been landmarked, but the interior is in limbo. Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre is in the process of working with Ridgewood organizations, citywide and statewide preservation organizations, electeds, and we are reaching out to the owner & calling for a meeting. Creative & adaptive reuse is not impossible, and has been conducted successfully nearby. For example, the former bank on Myrtle Ave became a Rite Aid, and they preserved the period features. Tax credits, grants, and other financial benefits are also available in this case, if the owner is interested in benefiting from this. I will continue to post updates.
MikeZZ & AprilY, you have your facts wrong. Yes, I will make this publicly known, since fairness is fairness when it comes to credit. You were not there. I was. Check the date of the submitted research. File for a Freedom Of Information Law request. I only “bash” those who are incorrect and deliberate. You are only taking the reporter’s word since they work for a major newspaper, and the LPC is a comrade. They want more coverage in a major newspaper. The Daily News took the facts from my press release as Chairman of Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre. He was fed information and made no mention of the spearheading party. I know the truth, and don’t wish to discuss this further.
We are calling for a meeting with new owner Tony Guzman involving restorative funding & creative adaptive reuse, along the lines of other theaters and banks: View link
Please feel free to post comments on the blog site.
MikeZZ: Let me clarify further. On behalf of a consortium of Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre (as chair), the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, and Rego-Forest Preservation Council, in March 2008, I was indeed first to submit a Request For Evaluation form, an accompanying research paper tracing the architectural and cultural history and its endangered status, and vintage movie ads and photos to the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. The LPC and Nick Hirshon of the Daily News are comrades, and that is why one takes and the other gives credit. True that all journalists were helpful, but initial credit is due where it deserves accordingly. If you do not believe me, file for a FOIL (Freedom Of Information Law) request with the LPC, and you will see the archives including all submitted information on the Ridgewood Theatre to date. There is a difference between journalism and historic preservation.
Now onto more important matters, directly relating to the current status of the Ridgewood Theatre…
John, you have communicated great ideas. I have had some of the same thoughts, and would like to speak with you. Can you please e-mail me at
Mikezz, AprilY and others:
As Chair of Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre & Queens VP of the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, I learned the news of the Ridgewood Theatre’s slated supermarket transformation earlier in the week, prior to the publishing of the Daily News article. The truth is that the owners knew of a potential investor and performing arts party that have been in touch with me, but the owners wanted to proceed with a quick sale, against the wishes of the immediate and widespread community. You may recall articles in 2008 and 2009, where co-owners Tony Montalbano and Mario Saggese vowed to maintain the theater’s architecture, regardless of its intended use. Tony Montalbano said “We wouldn’t do anything to hurt the community.” They seem to have given up, and walked away from the community.
We plan on calling a meeting with the new owner(s) and encouraging preservation of the interior, where a great percentage of early Adamesque features by Thomas Lamb remains, despite being multiplexed until recently. We have seen cases where stores preserved interiors of theaters. The owner(s) may be eligible for various grants and tax credits if they proceeded in historically-sensitive restoration and renovation plans.
Also, AprilY’s comment calls for a clarification. As Chair of Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre in conjunction with other organizational affiliations, I was first to submit a Request For Evaluation for and extensive research to the Landmarks Preservation Commission in March 2008, right afteer the theater’s closure, to preserve the theater’s architecture and culture conveyed for posterity. The Daily News wrote an article, on the basis of my organization press release. The Daily News never submitted written research or led the advocacy cause. There is a difference between a historic preservation campaign and journalism.
The Ridgewood Theatre is a great architectural example of the Adamesque style. It was one of Thomas Lamb’s earliest designs, and yet proved successful. In sum, it is rare. It does not have to be a very elaborate example to be deemed historic, although there are intricate features within. Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre is seeking investors. Let’s remain hopeful and do all we can before it is too late.
Talk about nothing? I founded Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre when the theater shuttered suddenly in March 2008, and I am spearheading the cause to preserve and creatively reuse this early and great work by Thomas W. Lamb, America’s foremost theater architect. The facade’s landmarking has been achieved after 2 years, and now we are doing all we can to help the owners either find a new party to sell it to, find tenants, or partners. Hopefully, performing arts with community spaces. Please forward this appeal to all your friends who may be able to help this noble cause. It takes a few minutes. Thank you!
John, here is my feedback:
Item 1: This is a major theater designed by Thomas Lamb, being that it is one of his earliest, where he experimented with a number of styles, and it proved successful.
Item 2: Very true
Item 3: I am aware that in April 2010, a tour was given of the theater’s auditorium, which was formerly multiplexed. One would think that in order to accommodate the multiplexing, the authentic and rare Adamesque features would have been destroyed, but many features remain to the public’s astonishment, although not in the best condition. I have seen photos in the Times NewsWeekly. Any restoration is a labor of love, and volunteers should be recruited, as in the case of Loews Jersey and the Beacon Theatre. Banks can serve as benefactors too. A treasure was unearthed, so we feel strongly that it shouldn’t be compromised now after awaiting rediscovery for decades. We have a greater chance of preservation if we urge parties to respect and restore the rare surviving auditorium. The last thing we want is a banal box.
TLSLOEWS, please visit the Facebook Group for Friends of he Ridgewood Theatre, which I created in 2008. Also, visit us on flickr, which links to it via Facebook. We won landmarking the facade as a start. It became a reality on Jan 12, 2010, after 2 years worth of advocacy, due to the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s routine for this case. The owners or future parties would need to file for State and National Register of Historic Places status to help acquire grants and tax credits for restoration and upgrades. NYS Council of The Arts (Queens Council) and the National Endowment of The Arts can provide funding for programming in many cases. Let’s have faith. Please feel free to ask questions. My e-mail is
Has everyone seen photos of the extent of architectural detail that was revealed after the multiplexing was removed in the auditorium? It was “unearthing a treasure,” and now we can ask “Was it done only to be destroyed?” Thankfully, one of the earliest Thomas Lamb theater interiors extant citywide exists, although not in the best of state. Nothing is impossible to restore with some dedication and a visionary mind. There are uses for just about everything too. Volunteers can be recruited and there are grants available for acquisition costs and restoration through various programs. banks can serve as benefactors. If you know of performing arts organizations and film operators, as well as related art and cultural groups, please do YOUR part by reaching out, and putting us in touch. May “word of mouth” pay off.
Thank you! If you are friendly with any nearby arts, culture, or film organizations, please feel free to forward the appeal to them.
URGENT UPDATE!!!! PLEASE HELP IN ANY WAY YOU CAN! This entails the greater picture of our boroughs. Friends of the Ridgewood Theatre is seeking a historically-minded performing arts group &/or film operator ASAP, or the rare Adamesque interior by Thomas Lamb will be GONE FOREVER, & Queens and Brooklyn will be robbed of a true theater of great potential for emerging artists and NYC patrons. The outside is landmarked, but that is not enough. Please spread the word, and e-mail
These are some photos:
Also join the Facebook Group for Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre, & encourage your friends to by clicking on “invite people to join.” Its future is up to US!