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In describing the businesses situated in the immediate vicinity of the Greenpoint, you can’t omit Murphy’s bar which, under a different name, is still situated at the corner of Lorimer and Calyer. Murphy’s was a classic Irish bar. While its interior has barely changed over the years, its front facade, which featured intricate glasswork, has now, unfortunately been replaced by a banal brickfront.
One interesting feature about Murphy’s was that, long after even McSorley’s had relented, Murphy’s would not allow women to be seated at the bar. Instead, all female patrons would have to be served at tables situated in the back room. This practice continued until at least the mod-1980’s!
The most ironic thing about this “no woman at the bar” practice is that the bar is currently owned by a woman! She has not continued the policy.
By the time I reached my mid-twenties, practically all the movie theaters in Greenpoint, where I lived, had closed. So, instead of trekking into Manhattan, I started to take the G train to Continental Ave. – and less often, Steinway St. – to catch a show. By the mid-1970’s most of the first run movies were being shown throughout the City upon their release, so it really did not make a difference where I went. In this way, I got to discover the Continental/Austin district which, besides hosting a bevy of movie theaters, was – and still is – the center of a lovely neighborhood. I now make it my home. The only downside is that I can no longer visit the Forest Hills Theatre, unless I want to fill a prescription!
Of all the theaters in the area that I frequented – unfortunately, I never made it to the Trylon – the Forest Hills was the most impressive and the one that I most enjoyed visiting.
I was just wondering if any other former or current Greenpoint residents also took the G to Forest Hills after the local options had cease to exist. I doubt that I was the only one doing this.
Yes, this was a real dump. I only remember the Wagner as a porn place, though I guess it may have converted to a Spanish language theater before its final demise. Its replacement by the Wyckoff Heights Hospital clinic can only be seen as a plus. The same cannot be said for the hospital’s huge extension across the street, which replaced a blockfront of solid housing.
My one memory of the Wagner occurred one evening, at about midnight, when I was having a political discussion with a friend – who is now an elected official – in a parked car down the block from the Wagner. Suddenly the threter’s doors opened and about a dozen men furtively exited the premises. Boy did they get out of there in a hurry!
While I first went to the Rovnak catering hall in November 1964 for my aunt’s weddong reception, which does postdate the C of O date, I don’t believe that the place had just opened. So Lost Memory’s conjecture that the old movie house may have been used as a catering hall before 1964 is probably correct. Since I do not recall any other interim use, a 1964 opening date would mean that the place stood vacant for 8 years. (The Nassau closed at least three years before the Winthrop, which met its demise in 1959.) When one considers that the Nassau was situated near the intersection of Greenpoint’s two major commercial streets, eight years of non use does not seem very believable. It certainly does not square with my memory. Anyone have any other thoughts or memories about this?
When the Nassau was open, it was flanked by two fruit and vegetable stores that always struck me as being decrepit and dirty. I could never understand why my mother ever patornized them. By the early 1960’s, these had been replaced by the Pizza Prince and the drug store that now extends all the way to Leonard St. (A tiny newstand/candy store occupied a corner storefront.)I believe the conversion of the movie house predated these developments and probably provided an incentive for them to have occurred.
I only visited this movie palace on one occasion – it was on April 8, 1970. I was going to college at the time and drove up with my parents from Greenpoint on a non-school weekday to see “The Prime of Miss Jeanne Brodie” Maggie Smith had just won the best actress award for the role, and we wanted to check it out.
I guess in the rush to get our tickets, I did not pay much attention to the outstanding exterior, which I certainly now regret. The interior was another thing, and it really overwhelmed me. I had never seen anything so opulent in a movie theater – especially one situated away from Manhattan. The fact that the Triboro had not been separated into a multi-screen complex enabled me to experience its full, originally intended, grandeur. The fact that the place was nearly empty gave me a sense that this situation would not continue to last for long.
As was common at the time, we entered the theater after the performance had begun, and my parents then watched the portion we had missed before leaving. Since I really enjoyed the movie – and the ambiance of the house – I stayed to see the entire show until the end. While Smith was terrific, I remember being particularly impressed with the performance of Pamela Franklin, who played Miss Brodie’s “assassin”. The scene between the two near the end was particularly compelling and was something I did wish to view again. (At the time, I really thought that Ms. Franklin would enjoy an outstanding cinematic career. Unfortunately, it quickly petered out in the wake of several awful movie and forgettable TV roles.)
After finally leaving, I walked back to the nearest “G” train station and passed a news stand. Reading the headline of the NY Post, which was then an afternoon paper that was as stridently liberal as it is now relentlessly conservative, I learned that Harrold Carrswell’s nomination to the the Supreme Court had surprisingly been rejected by the Senate. (As a Political Science major, I was particularly interested in this issue – and elated by the result.) This is why I can reference my visit to this exact date.
Several years later, I found myself on Steinway St. and decided to check out the Triboro. Walking up from the subway station, I noticed that the huge sign announcing the “Loew’s Triboro” was not there. After passing a small development of newly constructed apartments and still finding no Triboro, I was forced to conclude that I had just walked by the old movie theater. While I was – and remain – saddened that the Triboro is history, I will always fondly remember my one visit to it.
This is another one of those “whoever thought this was a movie house?” buildings. When I passed by it yesterday evening, the old Nassau was still standing and is hardly falling apart. It is now either vacant or being used as a warehouse. Nothing was happening there during my brief pass by.
Does anyone know how THIS Nassau got its name? While the origin of this area’s other Nassau Movie is clear – it was on Nassau Ave. – there is no obvious connection here. I know that Nassau county was created when it split from Queens in 1898 and that a quickly aborted attempt was made to re-name Newtown Creek the Nassau River when the stream was dredged and canalized at about the same time, but these hardly connect with the naming of a movie house on Grand St. Any ideas?
Before it was rudely blocked by the construction of the BQE in the early 1950’s, this portion of Grand St. was a much more lively place. Across the street from the old Nassau was the Grand Paradise banquet hall (now an upscale condo) which was, in its day, one of the classiest places in Williamsburg. I know it from its final days, when it hosted countless Hassidic weddings and Spanish dances. So locating a movie theater on this strip made a lot of sense in its day.
Since a number of months have elapsed since the initial rumors of the Cinemart’s demise appeared on this page, I wonder how the theater is faring. My wife and I saw “No Country for Old Men” last Friday. While the place was not packed, there were a good number of attendees. Hopefully, the theory that “no news is good news” will apply here and that the Cinemart will survive the “onslaught of Atlas”.
Since moving to Forest Hills from Greenpoint a little over six years ago, I have really gravitated to the Metropolitan Avenue part of this neighborhood, eventhough I live right off Queens Blvd. The Cinemart, along with the many restaurants and shops, is a major drawing card and I really hope it can survive.
The Nassau closed just as I was beginning to become aware of movie theaters. I remember passing by it with my mother as we walked to visit my grandmother on Calyer St. many times. One day it was showing pictures; the next day it was shut. My guess is that 1955 – rather than 1953 – provides a better estimate of its demise, but memories are very tricky things.
While I never went to the Nassau as a movie house, I have attended scores of wedding receptions, annual dinners, political fundraisers, etc. at the catering hall. Initially, it was called Rovnaks, after the owners. This was Greenpoint’s first “modern” catering hall, since it provided a “classier” venue than the church and legion halls previously used for such events. The Rovnak’s eventually changed the name to Princess Manor. It was subsequently sold to its present owners who have almost exclusively marketed it to the ethnic Polish community. Thus, most non-ethnic Poles will now feel more at home being served by the Princess Manor’s prime competitor – the Polonaise Terrace!
I visited 381-383 Knickerbocker Avenue yesterday. The two buildings are probably over 100 years old – certainly constructed before the “early teens” – and seem to have been built as three story commencial/residences, with the first floor occupied – as they are now – by retail stores. The corner building does contain rather elaborate brickwork, implying that this may have been more an a normal building. However, this was the era of elaborate brickwork.
Since capacity is only specified at 200, this must have been a tiny theater that was probably only situated on the first floor. If both 381 and 383 hosted the theater, this could work. But it would take a great deal of imagination to visualize a movie house here. This is a site in need of additional research. Any ideas?
As of yesterday, the old Rivoli is still very much intact. While just about all of the old exterior trappings of a movie palace have long been removed, the church has done a fine job of maintaining the outer walls and the building looks very attractive – as a church. This must be a fairly prosperious parish.
While the place was open for worship during my visit, I did not want to intrude, especially since I did not have the time to stay for the service. However, if anyone contacts the church in advance, I see no reason why they would not welcome a visit from old cinematic fans.
Woops, I meant it has been spared, not apared – whatever that means!
I had a few free hours yesterday and used the time to visit several old movie sites in Bushwick. Despite the fears expressed above, the Imperial is still very much intact and, in fact, appears to be in better shape than that depicted in the previous photo. It is probably being used as an active warehouse. The current entrances are locked with modern gates and the place is hardly falling apart. Interestingly enough, what had previously been a vacant lot to the right of the old theater is now occupied by a large – and very ugly – condo. So “progress” continues, but the old Imperial, for the time being, has been apared.
I worked in Bushwick, as the Community Board’s District Manager, during the 1970’s and had absolutely no idea that this building once was a movie theater. So this was all very interesting.
Also, does anyone remember when it closed as a Robert Hall store?
The boundaries between Bushwick and Ridgewood are very fluid and have a lot to do with the racial changes that occurred in Bushwick during the 60’s and 70’s. While I have seen maps that placed the border as far south as Wilson Ave. (unlike Congressman Crowley’s article, I never noted a Central Ave. boundary line) it gradually moved upward to the county line during those decades. This movement was underlined around 1980 when the 11237 zip code, which previously straddled the county line, was redistricted to end at the border.
While the 11237 zip code is officially named Wyckoff Heights, no one really refers to this as a distinct neighborhood. An effort to do this was actually made in the early 1980’s by persons who did not want to be associated with “troubled Bushwick”, and a few “Welcome to Wyckoff Heights” signs were installed on St. Nicholas and Cypress Avenues. But the name did not stick and the only memories of that attempt are the few remaining and rusting signs.
This last comment is really fascinating. I’m surprised that it has not generated any comments. Does anyone remember this rather significant event? Are there any records as to how long the theater was closed and when it reopened? Since it began as a 600 seat theater but (as noted above) had a listed capacity of just under 300 in its final years, was this seat reduction caused by fire damage? (Possibly the balcony, if there was one, was made inoperable at that time.)
While I never went to the Graham – I grew up in Greenpoint and had other, and better, cinematic options (all of which are now also history) – I would pass it and the Rainbow on the bus when I attended Most Holy Trinity HS in the 1960’s. At the time, it always featured triple bills. I was also struck by the fact that I almost never saw anyone going into it. Thus, its transformation into a porn theater, while sad, was not very surprising.
Like countless other Greenpointers, my first date took place at the Meserole. (I have absolutely no idea what we saw.) We then went for a drink at what was then Petey Della’s Bar/Restaurant, which was situated at the corner of McGuinness Blvd.(which was only recently known as Oakland St.) and Nassau Ave. It is now part of the Evergreen Funeral Home. Generations of 16 and 17 year olds learned how to drink at Petey Della’s – remember, the legal drinking age in NYS was then only 18.
As the Greenpoint RKO limped through its last few years of existence as an increasingly shabby venue, the Meserole clearly became Greenpoint’s premier movie house. The big music movies like South Pacific and My Fair Lady were slotted to play there, and drew very well.
It is interesting how people remember the Chopin but not the American, especially since the theater operated under the latter name for most of its existence. (Consider the Chopin to be a small Coda appended at the end of long orchestral movement in sonata form.) The remarkable thing about the Chopin was that – at a time the closure of a movie theater was a functional death sentence – the old American was actually resurrected, albeit briefly, to show movies again. Unfortunately, its second demise occurred just before Greenpoint started to become a hot community. If it had survived a little longer, the Chopin would have become a very successful art and indy house. But I guess we now have to settle for the Starbucks that now occupies this site.
Hi, my name is John Dereszewski. While I was not involved in the area during the active life of the Colonial, I served Bushwick as the Community Board District Manager during the horrid days of the late 1970’s. Thus I am in a very good position to talk about the problems that plagued the community once served by the Colonial during that era.
One of the things that I really like about this tread is the extent to which the life of a movie theater can reflect that of the surrounding community, in this case the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. Thus, many of the memories previously shared that do not directly relate to the Colonial really do, since they encompass the life of a community in which this movie theater was very much a part. Thus I hope future contributers will continue to apply this broad approach when they submit their comments.
Along this line, I would like to throw out an interesting tidbit concerning the origins of the name given to DeSales Pl. It appears that Our Lady of Lourdes, which was established way back in 1871, was initially named after St. Francis DeSales and only adopted its present name in 1900. But, during the interim, DeSales Pl. was named after the new church – it was previously called Hull St. So the old name lives on albeit as a street. How many of you old parishioners know this and can you add any further info?
Finally, if you are interested in exploring other Bushwick related issues – both current and past – many I suggest visiting the “My House in Bushwick” web site. It contains a varied tread very much like this but that is not tied to a specific topic. Just Google this phrase and link to the first selection. Hope you enjoy it.
Despite its very ornate character, by the 50’s and early 60’s, the Greenpoint had seen its best days and had become a pretty run down theater. The Meserole was clearly Greenpoint’s premier movie house during that time.
The configuration of the Greenpoint also worked against it. While it was high enough to support two balconies – the second of which was almost never opened – it was also very narrow. In contrast, the Meserole, which was not as high but much wider, seemed far more attractive – and what we would now call used friendly. In short, it was not at all surprising that the Greenpoint was the first theater to close.
The Greenpoint occupied both all of the current women’s clothing store as well as most of the present gym site. (This was initially occupied by an A&P.) The only area that was not part of the movie theater was a small two story house situated at the Calyer-Lorimer corner. Its first floor housed a delicatessen that was well known to the community. Since my grandmother lived at 150 Calyer – the long and thin four story house situated between Lorimer and Guernsey -during the 50’s and early 60’s, I knew this area very well and frequented the deli very often.
One final point. Before the Greenpoint Savings Bank, which is situated directly accross the street from the former Greenpoint, expanded in the 1950’s to extend to Lorimer St., a number of small – and very old – wood frame houses occupied that site. I vaguely remember them and would be interested in hearing from anyone who can tell me more about them.
One more thing.
The American was the strongest of Greenpoint’s second run houses and the last to close. It usually featured triple bills every day that ran, on average, for three days and were then replaced by another slate.
Finally, the American was Greenpoint’s premier “Dish Nite” venue. I do not know the number of plates, saucers and gravy bowls that my mother, grandmother and aunt collected during the 50’s and 60’s. People in my family are still eating off them!
While most posters know this theater as the Chopin, for the great portion of its existence, it was known as the American. The American Eagle that still soars over its central exterior entrance provides the best example of its lineage.
The American/Chopin was a very unusual venue. Because of some not very well considered renovations conducted during its early years, an enclosed corridor was created at the extreme left of the theater. This took away a number of seats and resulted in a “center” aisle that was situated far to the left of center. The corrider served no purpose and just wasted space. Since no structural changes when the American reopened as the Chopin, this situation continued to exist during the latter’s run.
If the Chopin had been able to survive until the recent gentrification of Greenpoint took hold, it would have become a great Art House or Indy theater. The crazy configuration of its central aisle would have been looked at as a quirky plus – like the wrong sloping of the Thalia. But this was not to be – and it has become a Starbucks instead!
The American movie house at 910 Manhattan Ave. was the strongest of the second run movie houses in Greenpoint and the last to close. It also reopened for a time – under the name of the Chopin Theater in the 70’s and 80’s, but closed before Greenpoint could really support a local movie theater. It would be a cinematic gold mine today!
The most defining element of the American is the large American Eagle that still soars above its former entrance. In its hay day, the American was a second/third run movie theater that featured two and three movies per day plus a dish night every week. Part of my dear mother’s dinner set was initially acquirred during American Theater “Dish Nites”!
I passed by the old American recently and was really depressed by its most recent use; it is a Starbucks!! Ugh.
I was at the Winthrop’s last day as a movie house. It was a Sunday. As a nine year old who lived a block away from the theater, I had absolutely no clue that the whole place would be closed down the very next day. I think my parents did, which is why they took me and my six year old sister to a very crowded house that day. One of the movies was a horror flick, though I can’t remember the name. It WAS pretty scary.
The Winthrop – which everyone called the Winnie – was named after the park situated across the street. While Winthrop Park’s name had been changed to McGolrick back in 1940, we all called it either Winthrop or the tree park. The new name has only set in recently.
While a Met Food store currently occupies this site, initially an A&P store was located here. It served the community until the early 1990’s. Also, while the supermarket occupies the site, the old movie house was almost totally destroyed during the reconstruction. Thus, nothing really remains of the old Winnie.
At one time, the Winnie was only one of many movie theaters serving Greenpoint. The others that I remember were the first run Meserole and RKO Greenpoint and the second run American, Nassau and Midway. They are all gone and their sites currently occupied by a drug store (Meserole), a womens' and childrens' clothing store (RKO Greenpoint), a catering house (the Nassau) and, most annoyingly, a Srarbucks (The American). Thus “progress” moves on.