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Back in the mid 1990’s the late Brother Andrew Corsini who was editor for the Theatre Historical Society wrote to me asking if I had ever heard of a Capitol Theatre in Riverhead, NY. I then began researching it (not an easy task in those days before Google) and, with the help of Wally Broege of the Riverhead Historical Society, discovered quite a bit of interesting information related to the theatre. Articles in the Suffolk Life weekly newspaper chronicled the construction and opening of this lavish little theatre in vivid detail.
Apparently a severe winter delayed some of the construction and it was written that the entire house was built and furnished by local contractors for the exception of the marquee and the special seating located in the orchestra section down front. The pipe organ was a 2 manual 4 rank Robert Morton. The grand opening was delayed a day or so due to a popular fraternal organization having ceremonies scheduled for the original opening date. In the beginning the feature films were supposedly changed on a daily basis and organ concerts were held on Sundays and proved to be very popular. Around the advent of sound the house was sold to Prudential who, in turn, modernized the auditorium by removing the organ and orchestra pit, adding more seating and the necessary sound equipment.
The Robert Morton organ was sold to Lester Little. His mother built a large studio for him on Paradise Point where the organ was installed and eventually enlarged to include more ranks of pipes and 2 more manuals. However, the work was poorly done. The studio also had a recording booth and ample audience seating. He was a member of the Long Island Organ and Piano Society and his studio was frequently used for club get-togethers. As I have been told many well known organists of the day visited and played the organ. Lester enjoyed playing hymns while his lady friend Althea Seavers sang the verses. I confirmed this with Althea many years ago when she was living in upstate New York. When Lester passed away the organ was broken up for parts and the studio and adjoining property is now privately owned.
The theatre’s marquee was added onto more than once until it became a huge over sized monstrosity. It was eventually removed when it was in danger of coming down. The Capitol/Riverhead theatre was torn down in the early 1960’s and the lot where I believe it stood on E. Main Street is still vacant and is next to the
Long Island Science Center. The street numbers in that section of E. Main St are very confusing and, in
my opinion, make no sense.
I just posted 2 photographs taken of the auditorium in January 1977. One shows the details of the stage left organ screen and the other was taken from top balcony center looking towards the stage. The late Carl Weiss and I were visiting the house prior to it opening for the day and we were able to get into the organ chamber on stage right. Most of the organ’s sound effects were there including a thunder sheet which, when shook, caused the manager to frantically asked what happened. The pipe organ was a Moller, Opus 2408, possessing 3 manuals & 16 ranks of pipes. It was installed in 1917 at a cost of $5,250.00 according to my records. We did not find the console. Probably long gone by that time. The house was in very good shape and well taken care of at the time we visited. I hope they can find a way to save it.
Good News! I arrived in Niles this past Thursday and when I drove past the Ready I noticed that work was being done. Today I was allowed into the theatre and shown the auditorium which is almost completely restored. The walls and ceiling have been painted and leafed. Seats have not yet been installed and the lobby is presently in the process of being returned to it original splendor. The owners have scheduled a grand reopening for sometime in October. I am not quite sure what venues are being planned for the theatre but it will wonderful to have the Ready Theatre back in operation.
Larry Bray’s Organ Loft’s Wurlitzer’s original 19 ranks came from the Staten Island Paramount Theatre which consisted of two 3 manual waterfall consoles These were turned into the 5 manual console which you see today. He supposedly acquired the Paramount organ after selling off the smaller theatre organs that had been installed in his uncle’s chicken coop. Subsequent additions to the organ’s pipework now totals 34 ranks. Over the years a handful of LP’s were recorded on the organ by the late Gus Farney. I believe that Lyn Larsen was the last to record an album on this Wurlitzer.
I have just posted a photo showing the Ohio Theatre taken on Nov.4, 1939 when Admiral Byrd’s newly built Snow Cruiser stopped in Conneaut on its way to Boston. The bulk of its 55 foot length is blocking the front of the State Theatre (directly behind the man standing on top of the cruiser) but the Ohio Theatre entrance, marquee and vertical sign are clearly shown. The Hotel Cleveland and the telephone building are both visible. If you Google “Snow Cruiser visits Conneaut” you can read the entire article written by Albert Phillips who was a young boy at the time. The Albion Library gave me permission to post the picture.
A clarification of sorts. In my recent post to comments posted by Ed Solero regarding the Floral’s pipe organ I stated in that it was installed in 1928. This is from the book entitled The Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ, Vol.2 authored by the late Dave Junchen and published by Showcase Publications in 1989. This volume covers pipe organ manufacturers whose names began with the letter “L” through “W”. Dates were taken from his first hand research with United States Pipe Organ Company archives. It is possible that the organ was installed after the theatre opening. David published volume 1 and had material for his third and final volume which was to have been exclusively on Wurlitzer. Unfortunately he died before it could be published and it was finally published in 2005 by the American Theatre Organ Society. Theatre organist Jeff Weiler spent quite a few years putting David’s material back together and expanded on it as well. It is a great tribute to David’s memory. The ATOS should still have copies available of this issue and the other volumes can be found either through EBay or ABE Books.
I have just posted 5 pictures of the Floral Theatre taken sometime in either the late 70’s or early 80’s. I had asked permission from the manager to photograph the auditorium and was refused. So all of what you will see were taken during an intermission and in a hurry. Without the use of a tripod and timed exposure a full house picture was out of the question. I am of the opinion that the colors shown in my pictures are from a repaint done in later years and do not represent what the house originally looked like when first opened. My previous post described the pipe organ it once possessed. I do not know when it was removed or where it went. My guess is that it coincided with the installation of air conditioning. I remember seeing these large round fixtures protruding from the auditorium ceiling which undoubtedly had something to do with the AC.
Possibly the AC unit was installed in the old organ chamber. Back in the early seventies I lived in the Garden City Park & Floral Park area and saw many a film in the Floral Theatre. Going to that theatre was a first class experience. I’m happy that the new owners had the foresight to preserve as much of the architectural details that they did which helps keep the memory of the Floral Theatre alive.
To Ed Solero on your comments from April 24, 2011. The Floral Theatre possessed a United States pipe organ consisting of 3 manuals and 8 ranks of pipes. It was Opus number 152 and was installed in 1928. All the pipework was installed in the stage right chambers. Of all the local houses in this chain the Floral has the largest theatre organ. The Bellerose has a 2 manual 7 rank instrument by the same builder. The United States pipe organ factory was located in Crum Lynne, PA. At one time I knew who the architect of the Floral was but over the years I’ve forgotten who that was. I did notice, while doing research on the Floral, that it had the look of a much earlier style house. In my opinion it had an auditorium similar to vaudeville houses built in the late teens / early twenties. The very shallow lobby with half walls separating the rear of the auditorium along with the lack of free hanging chandeliers and very subdued base relief plaster decorations gave it that older look in my opinion. Most movie houses built in 1927 were far more ornate. My guess is that by utilizing existing plans they were able to cut costs. Once again this is all my opinion based on what I have seen and learned over the years.
Back in January 1976 or 1977 the late Carl Weiss and I spent an afternoon touring the Walker. Carl knew the owners from servicing the Wurlitzer so he had keys to the place. While Carl spent over an hour playing the Wurlitzer I took photographs of the auditorium. As I recall it was in near mint condition with some work being needed on the balcony rear wall and orchestra pit. If my memory is serving me correctly the house was still owned by the Walker family although UA was leasing it at the time. I will attempt to post some of the pictures when time permits. From what I’ve read in the comments it sounds as if the Walker could be restored with minimal effort. Doe anyone know if the Wurlitzer is still in the house?
Back in 1969 I worked part time as an usher at the Cove Theatre. The manager and I had our differences but she became my best friend when the Carroll Baker film Paranoia was to be shown. It had, at the time, an “X” rating (which by today’s standards would have been “R”) and I was the only part time usher old enough to work with an “X” rated film in the house. It was a double feature along with The Oblong Box starring Vincent Price. Needless to say the first ever “X” rated film shown in Glen Cove was well patronized. I became friends with the gentleman who worked the projection room and he used to play my LP’s of Everett Nourse at the SF Fox Wurlitzer during intermissions. The stage was filled with junk which included the old Midmer-Losh organ console minus its pedalboard. It had 3 manuals of which the lower one was of 88 keys. The pipe chambers were behind the stage left wall and had been pretty much trashed. It was Opus 5315 and consisted of 3 manuals & 10 ranks. It was installed in 1927. I remember seeing a central vacuuming system that still worked! I also remember taking black and white pictures of the
auditorium which are very much like the ones already posted. I enjoyed working at the Cove back then.
I have just posted 5 pictures of the Suffolk Theatre. These were taken in January of 1995 not long after the town acquired the house with plans to restore it. It has been too many years since I spoke with someone from the town so my facts may be somewhat sketchy. I remember being told that, in order to create a full stage, they were planning on moving the proscenium arch into the auditorium some 20 or 30 feet which, in my opinion would have ruined everything. Apparently that was easier at the time than acquiring the land behind the house. For its years the house was in very good shape with very little damage. Only the upper level lounge had severe water damage from a leaking roof. The town did fix that and the front wall of the building.
Happy New Year everyone. I have been doing some research on theatre pipe organs and uncovered something of interest. As I had stated in an earlier post the La Grande Theatre had a Tellers-Kent pipe organ (Opus 376)of 3 manuals and 10 sets of pipes installed in 1926 for $6,950.00. This is from the late Dave Junchen’s Encyclopedia of the American Theatre Organ, Vol. 2. In that same volume, under Marr & Colton, there is another listing for Conneaut’s La Grande Theatre for a pipe organ of 2 manuals. No other information is shown for this listing which leads me to believe that it was considered but Tellers-Kent got the job.
I attempted to send BST pics to you but your email address apparently is not working.
Here is a description of the New Republic Theatre from Julius Cahn’s Official Theatrical Guide dated 1908 – 1909. This is probably the Republic Theatre mentioned on page 74 in David Owens Conneaut book. Interesting details listed here along with the electrical service. Judging by the dimensions it was an average sized house. Was it primarily live stage or did they show early movies? When was it built and when was it torn down?
My folks have lived in Niles, MI since 1968. In July of 1980, during one of my visits, I got permission to take pictures of the auditorium, one of which has been posted here. The Barton organ was purchased and removed by the late Father Jim Miller who installed it in his home. He may have made a recording on it but I’m not sure. I certainly hope they can restore it to its original glory. Those brass entry doors would look great polished.
I have posted recently scanned pictures of the Bay Shore Theatre that were originally taken in 1982. I have restricted these so, if you want copies for your use only, let me know and I’ll gladly email them to you. I hope you enjoy these.
To Jeana & Bway:
I’ll try and get some pictures scanned this week. Probably the reason why there are no old pictures/postcards of the Bay Shore could be that it was one of those venues of entertainment that was always there and taken for granted. When it was finished the architect and builder undoubtedly photographed it for their records but those are probably long gone. The YMCA really didn’t destroy the theatre. Being closed for over 10 years with no heat in the building ruined the plaster and anything made of wood had rotted. The house was in deplorable condition when they tried to auction off what remained of it. More later.
I haven’t logged onto the site in quite some time and I see everything is brand new. Thank you Jeana for posting one of my Bay Shore pictures and for the credit. I appreciate it. Eventually I’ll scan some of the others and post them now that it is possible to do so. Thanks to all those who revamped the site. It looks great!
Continuing; The 1929 Film Daily Yearbook listed the Bay Shore seating at 2500! Both figures were probably inflated. The Regent became the Bolton Center. Others have posted details of that. To answer Jeana’s question I have scanned some of the Bay Shore pics into my computer. Most of what you will see in the article are the B & W versions. Are we able to post pictures on the website yet? Bye for now. Jeff
If anyone cares to read the article I had written that appeared in the June 1983 issue of The Console email me at Windsor Theater. Patchogue
seated 15000 & town pop was 6850.
I have attended shows at the Patchogue Theatre in the past few years and was present when then Mayor Keegan had his crew remove the interior subdividing walls and seats. I think that they restored the auditorium to as it was prior to the shoe boxing and I feel, in my opinion, that it was originally much more colorful when first opened. I am pleased with what they have done yet I wish they didn’t have to install all those lighting bridges which obstruct ones view. The main chandelier is nice but doesn’t seem to go with the adamesque interior. The NYTOS had agreed with the previous director to install a 2-10 Wurlitzer and, just as they were about to begin, a new director came onto the scene and refused to allow the installation for whatever reason. In this writer’s opinion that was a bad decision on his part. The organ would have been a wonderful addition to the theatre allowing silent film and concerts, etc. Anyway, it is wonderful to have such a theatre here in Suffolk County and the village has make a comeback around it.
Back in late 1982 I believe, to the best of my knowledge, that I was the last person allowed into the Bay Shore Theatre with a camera. The theatre’s last manager, Mary Costello, still had the keys and allowed me to take pictures for a short period of time. I then had an article published in the Console Magazine in June 1983. Although some have said that the Bay Shore was a twin to the Patchogue Theatre it was more of a more ornate sister. Having opened sometime in 1927, 4 years after the Patchogue, the Bay Shore was much more ornate in style. Both possessed 2-8 Moller organs although the Bay Shore’s was voiced on 7" of wind rather than the 5" of Pathogue organ. In this writer’s opinion the Bay Shore was the most ornate house east of Queens, NY. I have quite a few good color pictures of it and, aside from layers of dirt that were too difficult to clean and some plaster damage, the house was in decent shape for its years. It closed in August 1982 showing a re-run of Starwars. Century was the last operator leasing from RKO who had plans to triplex the house but the town refused to allow it. It remained closed for approx. 10 years during which time the entire interior fell apart. I believe they were attempting to sell off whatever was salable prior to renovation into the YMCA. Last I knew the YMCA had an area where the box office and other artifacts were housed commemorating the old theatre. I will try and scan my pictures and make some available. JEFF MORRELL