Kingston Theatre

323 Wall Street,
Kingston, NY 12401

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Kingston Theatre

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Originally the site of Cohen’s Vaudeville Theatre, built in the late-1800’s, Keeneys Theatre was built in 1918, and was extensively remodeled in 1926. By then it was run by Walter Reade Theatres. The original architects were William E. Lehman and Gerrard W. Betz. Movies were combined with vaudeville for some years.

After closing it became a furniture store, but since 2001 has been a performing arts center. Some of the original organ parts are still in the basement.

Contributed by RobertR

Recent comments (view all 28 comments)

jamespanza
jamespanza on December 6, 2007 at 6:04 pm

We Have the Horns for that in the basement of the theater and the keyboard part is being sold at a store where they sell old stuff like that. It is cool to pick up the pips to see them. If you blow in to some of the small ones you can still get sound form them. But it does exist and could be rebuilt and would probably work.

jamespanza
jamespanza on January 15, 2008 at 8:14 am

I just found about there being a tunnel that runs form under this theater out of the city of Kingston NY. I have been told that this tunnel is big enough to stand in. I have not been told much more than that. I thought that it might be interesting to let everybody know about that tunnel.

backstageproductions
backstageproductions on January 20, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Imagine my surprise when conducting a search and finding this posting about my Building. I am the current owner of this Theater – now known as Backstage Studio Productions ( BSP) located at 323 wall Street in Uptown Kingston. I would love to see some of the photos that Warren had up on Photobucket. The message says the photos are no longer there.

The history goes something like this. Built as a Vaudeville Theater in the late 1800’s, it was Cohen’s Vaudeville. The building was bought by Keeney and there was a Keeney’s Pub next door. He sold it to the Movie Chain, Reade’s and it became known as Reade’s Kingston Theater. The initials RKT are still in a plaque in gold leaf on the precenium. There was a condition in the Sale option of Reade’s that said the building could not be used as any kind of venue for 10 years. A non-compete clause, if you will. So when Standard Furniture bought the building, they bastardized the entire place. They poured a solid 11 in concrete floor – 12 feet above the original sloped floor to use as a furniture show room. The original floor became the room for furniture storage, with the poured concrete columns (18" in diameter) every 10 feet to hold up the concrete floor above it.

It seems the building never became a venue again because getting rid of 17,000 sq. ft of 11 inch thick poured concrete would cost more than the building. When I bought it in 2001, I decided there would never be permanent seats anyway, so seats could be on moveable risers. Every inch of the building was designed by John Storyk (premier acoustic designer). Rehearsal & recording studios, dance studio with 5 layers of sprung floor, a Lounge with Full Liquor Bar where Live Music takes place on a regular basis and the Theater Space is used for Live theater productions, Concerts, Parties (Halloween is a favorite), Weddings, Conferences, etc., etc. and is rented out to others for their own productions.

BTW: The parts of the Pipe organ are in the basement. I would love to get them out of there if anyone knows a good home for it. I would also love to speak to Robbie. Sandy Margolin had advised me to get in touch with you about some ideas we’ve been exploring. 845.338.8700 or

jamespanza
jamespanza on February 15, 2008 at 4:32 am

I have a site with pictures on it of the current conduction of this theater. It is on facebook.

Here is the link

View link

Hope you all enjoy the photos.

shoeshoe14
shoeshoe14 on August 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Saw this theater’s exterior on my bike trip 2 weeks ago. It was a cool find, because its facade is located right within the limits of the old original Dutch downtown settlement. Kingston has 3 downtowns and this was the original as the (original) capitol of NY. This part of downtown feels like the old west mixed with Dutch.

Since this block is a full one, you don’t expect to see the auditorium when you do. When you go around the corner far away to the next street, you see the Peace Park and the mural behind it is actually on the auditorium. There’s an open gate and a driveway full of weeds. A sign says something like it was a pedestrian thoroughfare, as it may have been a while ago but it’s too overgrown as I tried to walk it.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 18, 2010 at 1:31 am

Walter Reade had control of the Kingston Theatre by 1926, and he was the instigator of the major alterations that were made that year. Thr project was described in an article in the Kingston Daily Freeman, May 6, 1926.

The building was extensively altered. Storefronts along Crown Street were removed, and the stage was moved back into that space. At the same time, the back rows of seats were removed for about 20 feet across the width of the orchestra floor, and that space was converted into a lounge and promenade. New seats were added at the front of the house after the stage had been moved back. The structural changes were undoubtedly accompanied by redecoration of the entire theater.

The 1926 alterations were designed by local architect Gerard W. Betz. I’ve also found an item in the January 27, 1915, issue of the trade journal Engineering & Contracting which names Betz as the architect of a planned $80,000 theater project in Kingston. So far I’ve been unable to discover which theater this 1915 project became, assuming that it was actually built.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 18, 2010 at 2:33 am

Here’s a correction to some of the errors in the current description of this theater. The February 19, 1926, issue of the Kingston Daily Freeman said that Keeney’s Theatre had been built as a motion picture house, not a vaudeville theater. The “stage” that was being moved back in the proposed alterations was apparently a small one, and Walter Reade’s plan was to add regular vaudeville to the house after the new stage built.

This is borne out by the caption to the ca.1921 photo ken mc linked to in his comment of December 3, 2007, which says that Keeney’s was built in 1919 (that was probably the year it opened, as Lost Memory’s comment of December 6, 2007, says that an organ was installed in 1918) and adds that vaudeville supplemented the early silent movies at the house after Reade took over. The aka Cohen Theatre should be removed. If there was a Cohen Theatre in Kingston, it was not in this building. The aka Reade’s Kingston Theatre should be added.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 18, 2010 at 2:53 am

Additional information unearthed: According to an article about the laying of the foundations of the new theater, published in the Kingston Daily Freeman, April 18, 1918, the original architect of Keeeney’s Theatre was William E. Lehman, with Gerard W. Betz as supervising architect. Betz was the sole architect for the major expansion in 1926.

DJPeak
DJPeak on July 18, 2011 at 6:41 pm

New links to both of those pics. http://media.photobucket.com/image/warrengwhiz/GuanoReturns/Queens%20Movie%20Theaters/Plaza%20Theater%20Corona/PlazaAud.jpg?o=1

and

http://photobucket.com/albums/a18/Warrengwhiz/kingston1915.jpg

DJPeak
DJPeak on July 18, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Sorry First link is wrong. @Warren do you have the “Kingston Maybe” picture?

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