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Great picture TT. The whole streetscape is great, especially ths Nedicks, which was apparently situated right across the street from Brooklyn’s Borough Hall …… In looking at the great picture at the top of this page, you can date it to 1926 – or 1927 at the latest. The earlier date was the year when “Desert Valley” a silent oater about competing water rights and starring Buck Jones – one of my mother’s favorites – was released …….. Finally, Ed you are so right about the idiotic placement of the Towne on the street view. I guess when streets are radically altered, as was the case with Washington St.,the technology behind street view just cannot cope with the changes. (I have always wondered why the powers that be decided to rename the entire southern portion of Washington St. – named, after all, for one of our greatest Presidents – into the sterile Cadman Plaza East, especially since the location of the roadbed hardly changed. As it is, the only remaning portion of Washington St. is situated – at least until the development of Dumbo – in a desolate middle of nowhere.)
Thanks for your response, ollyoxen. Given the current R-6 zoning of the area, I believe that the condo conversion of this property could probably go forward “as of right”. This is why the successful submission of a building permit was probably all that the developer had to do in order to get a green light from the NYC Building Department. The only possible issue here could concern additional parking space requirements. But this has apparently not stopped this project from advancing.
Regarding the exterior, one would hope that the Graham Ave. entrance to the old Rainbow – what will probably also be the entrance to the new condo – will remain as is – and hopefully be returned to its former glory. While this makes great real estate marketing sense, you never know how these short term bottom liners will approach this issue. Hopefully, rationality – and long term good business sense – will prevail here.
This is really awful news, especially since we had, for a while at least, some hope that sometime positve might occur here.
One question: ollyoxen, by “demolition, do you mean the actual razing of the building or the gut renovation of the interior? While both options are pretty terrible, at least the latter would keep the exterior in place.
Also, Matt, have you seen the plans for the development of this site and, if so, can you share them with us?
Great catch TT, since the place was only known as the Capri very briefly.
I think the 1930’s photos that Bway was referring to were taken in conjunction with the 1939-40 Worlds Fair. I am not aware of any set taken immediately after that.
Great shot, TT – and I am sure that a load of additional
old pictures will soon be posted here as a result of NYC’s recent release of its very substantial archives.
This picture was probably taken in the late 70’s – early 80’s, when the Wagner has just closed its doors and had not yet been replaced with the medical facility that now stands in its place.
Tapeshare, my guess is that the Parthenon was probably a new construction project that replaced the former buildings on this site. Certainly, the distinctive Greek arch could only have been constructed with the new theater’s name in mind. Still, situations did and do exist where the walls of the previous building are not demolished but are instead incorporated in the new design. So anything is poosible though, in this situation, rather deubtful. Bway and Peter, do you have anything to add on this subject? (And Peter, since the May 5 walking tour fell through, I’m sorry that I will not meet you at that time.)
As an update, I just wanted you to know that, at its most recent meeting, the NYC Board of Standards and Appeals unanimously voted to award the special permit that will enable the owners of the old Parthenon to operate a 24 hour a day gym on this site. The only pertinent condition placed upon the approval was that the owner must vigorously work to combat the graffiti problem that has long plagued this building. (This has been a REAL problem.) While the possible restoration of the old facade was not addressed, there is no reason why it should not be – and very good reasons why it should – as the project proceeds toward implementation. Hopefully the local community board,the press – and whoever else – will register their concerns and recommendations here. Stay tuned.
Two othwer thoughts on this item just came to mind FIRST, the scheme of the proposed renovations confirms, at least to me, that the old movie house was situated on the second floor – where the gym will soon be located – and that people visiting the Parthenon had to ascend a staircase from the entrance to approach it. The ground floor probably housed dressing rooms when the Parthenon hosted live theater and other retail space ….. SECOND, the construction of the gym may provide an opportunity to remove the dropped ceiling that currently covers the bingo hall and uncover whatever remains of the old theater’s upper walls and ceiling – or not. In any event, this offers a potentially intriguing possibility.
A few interesting developments – and possibilities – have recently emerged here ……. FIRST, the bingo hall and most of the retail stores on the ground floor, including the old newsstand that moved down the block, have been closed and scaffolding has been erected on the exterior …… SECOND, the reason for this stems from a proposal to establish a gym in the bingo hall area on the second floor and bring in a drug store and a telephone outlet on the ground floor. The gym requires a zoning variance, which is currently before the City’s Board of Standards and Appeals and that will almost certainly be granted …… THIRD, the renovation of the facade raises the possibility that the ugly outer layers that, over the years, have rudely disfigured the building could be stripped off and the Parthenon’s lovely original brick exterior restored to public view. I have raised the possibility of doing this with local Queens Community Board 5 and the Times Newsweekly newspaper. Hopefully, they will be responsive to this proposal ……. I hope to have more to share with you on this shortly.
Flynn, thanks so much for adding that terrific picture. It really shows where the old Tribune Theatre fit in to what is now an open plaza. And seeing a small portion of the old BMT elevated City Hall terminal was very much a plus.
When I first discovered the City Hall Theatre page on this site, I was surprised to learn that one movie house could serve what, even at that time, was already a 9 to 5 community. I was realy shocked that TWO theaters, situated nearly within the shadow of each other, could exist – and apparently prosper -in this neighborhood. I wonder how the attendance patterns functioned here. Was it a habit for downtown workers to quit at five, have a drink and/or a quick meal and then take in a 6 or 7 o'clock showing – or did most patrons – perhaps including the Fulton Fish Market crowd – view the presentations earlier in the day? (I doubt that there was much of a crown for the late evening showings – but who knows?)
It would really be great to hear the thoughts and observations of those who actually saw movies in the City Hall area in that bygone time.
The Brownstoner recently printed an interesting and comprehensive review of the site of this theater’s history. The article is linked below.
Hope you enjoy it – and hope the link works.
I only caught a few movies in this very nice setting. The one I do remember was seeing “Prizzi’s Honor” here over the President’s Day weekend – a few weeks before it was robbed of the Best Picture Oscar by the dreadful “Out of Africa” ……. Contrary to a comment posted above, I do not remember any problems with the theater’s sight lines. It seemed to be a fine place to take in a flick.
Thanks for your comments Peter – and great to hear from you …… My guess is that the grand supermarket proposal has gone up in smoke and that the current owner is trying to make something out of his investment …..Let’s see what will happen – and hope to see you are doing well!!
Dear nacunis, I grew up in Greenpoint and only learned of Morell St. way after its demise, even after I got to know the srea when I attended Most Holy Trinity HS. It was actually named after the founder of the first successful development along the Williamsburg waterfront, at today’s Grand Street. It was called Yorkton. At the same time, another development, called Williamsburgh, opened a few blocks to the north, at around today’s Metropolitan Ave. It quickly went bust. But the Williamsburgh name stuck – and Yorkton soon went into oblivion. To make matters worse, even the name of Yorkton’s founder vanished, as part of Morell St. was first incoporated into Bushwick Ave. and the rest later swallowed by Bushwick-Hylan Houses.
I would love to see any pictures of the old Morell St., though I have none to share. You can send to my e-mail site at
Also, you might wish to share any thoughts about the old neighborhood on the Echo Theatre’s page in Cinema Treasures. This theater once existed at just about the point where Bushwick Ave. and Morell St. merged. I have attempted to link this page at the bottom of this message, but it might not work. If it does not, just search the theater page under “Echo” and it will come up. (The Echo is #8167 in the CT theater roster.)
Very glad to hear from you.
view the link
Joe, thanks so much for digging into this item and finding the name of the architect. While you noted on the Carver Theatre’s page that Yarich had designed several theaters for Weingarten, this marks his initial entry in the CT roster. So, I guess there are more discoveries to come.
Just one small correction: the old Parthenon was known as – as was the Carver – Weingarten’s. I got the spelling wrong. But the names are definitely the same in both cases.
Thanks so much for linking this article. I noticed that this theater was built for someone named Weingartner and that its structure is not unlike that of the old Parthenon Theatre, which existed along the Brooklyn/Queens border in Bushwick/Ridgewood. In addition, the Parthenon was originally known as “Weingartner’s Rarthenon”. This got me to think if: (1) the same Weingartner owned both theaters; and (2)both theaters were designed by the same firm. Food for thought.
Just spent an enjoyable evening seeing “The Descendants” at the Kew Gardens. (A very fine film – but not in the same class as either “Midnight in Paris” or “The Artist”. Clooney, however, was terrific.) The place was packed, which is a tribute to the management’s excellent picture selection – and the sophisticated tastes of the local residents ……. While there, I asked a couple of employees about the theater’s possible expansion into the old drug store. While one worker did not have a clue, the other one confirmed that some thought had been given to it, but that nothing firm has, to date, emerged. So, stay tuned. (Wouldn’t it be great to see a drug store turned into a movie theater!!)
While I passed by this theater literally hundreds of times on my way to Lincoln Center, I only visited it once. The film I saw was a cinematic version of Richard Strauss' opera “Der Rosenkavalier” Elizabeth Schwartzkopf played the Marshallen and Otto Edelman was Baron Ochs. Since, as noted above, this theater mostly played first run movies, this probably represented a bit of a departure.
While I do not believe that the Rainbow is still being used actively as a church, it appears that the church elders – if that is what they are called – are trying to keep the place in good shape to enhance its value to potential buyers. So I do not think that a Ridgewood-like situation is occurring here……. I also agree that the Rainbow can serve as a terrific arts and performance center – they might even show movies once in a while – to the new East Willliamsburg community – though the price will be steep. If the BushwickBk blog is ever resurrected, this would be the place to push this idea.
The Brooklyn Theatre Index contains some interesting tidbits about this long lost theater. For one thing, a theater named the Manhattan Variety opened at this address in 1910 and, in 1913, changed its name to the Manhattan Theatre. In 1918, however, it appears that the old building was replaced by a new one. In 1938, the Manhattan became the Midway and continued to function as such until its cinematic demise in 1953, a few years later than I would have thought. …… One former name that the Index does NOT reference is the Eagle. Since this theater was situated near Manhattan Avenue’s intersection with Eagle Street, it is possible that the Eagle was an informal name used by the locals even if it never became official, in the same way that many kids refer to local parks by the street that borders them rather than by their official name. At least this is a good guess.
I passed by the old Rainbow a week ago. Nothing has changed since my last visit and it still appears to be on the market. While I share Astyanax’s doubts about the economic feasibility of reviving the place for theatrical purposes, one can always hope.
One more thing. Whether it was the High, the Navy or whatever, there is no way that this theater was situated in Williamsburg. The current zip code is 11201, which serves Brooklyn Heights. The reference at the top of the page should be changed accordingly.
In consulting the Brooklyn Theatre Index, I found two former movie theaters situated on Sands Street – the Gold at 178 and the Navy Theatre at 207-11 – but absolutely no reference to a High Theatre. It should also be noted that the Navy Theatre does not have a page on CT. This lends credence to the theory expressed in a pevious comment that the High Theatre was really the Navy. ….. For the record, the Navy began life as the Louis Barr and Charles Levin Theatre in 1910; changed names to the Naval Family Theatre in 1914; and finally became the Navy Theatre in 1921. Its capacity was 300; Hy J. Nurich was listed as the architect; and it closed in 1927.