Wilson Theatre

27 Lee Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11211

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circa 1910 post card view showing Payton's Theatre, in the center of a block of buildings

Viewing: Photo | Street View

This theatre was at the corner of Lee Avenue and Roebling Street and was originally the site of a former church which became the 1,600-seat Lee Avenue Academy of Music which opened in October 1882. It was briefly named the Phoebus Theatre in May 1895. On September 3, 1900 it became Payton’s Lee Avenue Theatre, screening movies by 1914. It was closed and demolished in 1918.

On the site opened the Roebling Theatre on June 13, 1919 with Harold Lloyd in “Daddy Long Legs”. It built for and operated by the Meyer & Schneider chain. All 1,200 seats were on a single floor. It was renamed Wilson Theatre in 1937 and was already closed in 1945.

Contributed by Allan Levy

Recent comments (view all 46 comments)

ARTISTHANNAH on December 5, 2006 at 5:57 pm


michelemarie on December 6, 2006 at 11:18 am

Dear Hannah, you are absoulely correct is is Division Ave. I was born and raised in Williamsburgh in 1945.I Lived on Penn Street and Bedford Ave. I remember Hymie’s Carriage and Bicicle Store right next door to the old Wilson Theater. The building was boarded up by the time I could remember And the public school across the street. We used to call it Wilson Park and go there quite often. I also remeber Clymer Street that was where the old 90 Precient was. I also remember 2 Beauty Parlor’s on Division Ave right across from the precient house on Clymer Don’s Beauty Parlor which became Bella’s Beauty Parlor when Don retired and sold to Bella. Toby was the manicurist and electorsist there. Glamour Beauty Parlor was around
the corner on Roebeling Street next to a Jewish Deli. Lee ave was a bunch of stores esc=peciall Flaum’s Appetiser store—great pickles There were a few candy stores on Lee Ave also. Shapiro’s on Lee and Hooper St. Another candy store across the street from Shapiro’s. Bill’s candy store on Penn and Lee and Lippy’s Candy store on Lee and Rutledge Street. As kids we went to all of them. Also the bakery called Kramer’s on Penn and Lee Avenue. They are all gone now. I had an opportunity to be in the neighborhood last year with my Daughter and gave her a tour of the old place, much to my dismay all the memories of my childhood are now just memories except my old school which was Transfiguration on Marcy Avenue and Hooper Street. I stiol have a Dear friend who lives on Hewes Street and we went to school together and we talk often about the old days, and the old moviehouses which are now extinct. Anniegirl

Martym on December 29, 2006 at 9:20 am

I lived on Rutledge St. from 1933-1955. The movie house that we went to was the Model Theater on Lee Ave. I think that it was closer to Hooper or Hewes St. One could rent a 2 wheel bike from Hymies for 10 cents for an hour and that included a clip for your pants cuff. There was a fresh fish store on Lee ave. where my mother would buy a live fish on Thurs or Fri for the weekend. These are great memories. In virginia Beach, where I now live, real sour pickles are a rarity.I always say that I wasn’t born in NY but in Brooklyn.

michelemarie on January 2, 2007 at 1:14 pm

Dear Smoky, Where on Rutledge Street did you live. My Aunt Nancy Russo and her children Eugene, Gary and Sally lived between Marcy and Lee Avenue and my Friend Virginia Molloy lived on Rutledge in the Apartment house between Lee and Bedford near Schlensky’s Drug Store on Lee Ave. Do you remember Faust Ice Cream parlor on Bedford and Rutledge.During the 50’s and all of us went to the Model Movie house on Lee Avenue. Then we went to the Commodore on Broadway. I lived on Penn Street between Bedford and Whythe Ave. I surely remember hYMIES. You have to remember Kraemer’s Bakery on Penn and Lee. If you get this, e-mail me at and we can talk about the good old days in Williamsburgh. Happy New Year Smoky.

jtp on September 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

working link to historic interior photos…

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jtp on September 19, 2010 at 3:08 pm

certificates of occupancy through the years.

capacity of 800+ up to at least 1959. After that there is a C of O for a capacity of 325 from 1962, but that may or may not be for the same structure.

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From aerial shots it is definitely still the same building on that lot, but who knows what the interior has become.

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My guess would be that a major alteration took place sometime after 1959 and much of the theater was carved up into classrooms. If I spoke yiddish or hebrew I might try to sweet talk my way in there to check it out!

CConnolly1 on February 4, 2011 at 4:39 am

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Came across this image from the Museum of the City of NY website. Hope the link works but if not, they’ve got a nice collection. The caption under the photo reads “Interior of Corse Payton’s Theater showing the audience at full capacity.” Year is 1902

Asbags on June 21, 2011 at 7:37 am

Hi, all…..I introduced the Wilson Theater to Cinema Treasures several years ago when nobody could remember it ever existed. I went to P.S. 16 and used to walk past the closed theater every day. I called the Jewish Book Store next to the Synagogue and spoke to someone who told me that the floor in the Synagogue was being replaced because it slopped forward. That bit of information and a Google Earth view of the building showing what appeared to be a typical movie theater roof, cinched the fact that the Synagogue used to be a movie theater. I am soo happy that others are still talking about the theater. I would suggest that you view all the comments going back to the beginning or several years worth. It is interesting and worthwhile. Asbags

johndereszewski on March 25, 2012 at 10:34 am

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.

{view link}(http://www.brownstoner.com/blog/2012/03/building-of-the-day-27-lee-avenue/#more-87529)

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on October 24, 2017 at 7:32 am

This originally opened as the Roebling Theatre on June 13th, 1919. News report uploaded here

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