Amphion Theatre

437 Bedford Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11211

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Lost Memory
Lost Memory on January 27, 2014 at 11:22 am

This theatre opened as the Amphion Academy in 1888. Published in the New York Daily Tribune on January 8, 1888.

The Amphion Academy, Brooklyn’s new theatre, on Bedford ave., near Broadway, will be formally opened to the public by the National Opera Company on January 27 for a season of five evening performances and two matinees. The Amphion Club, which has a membership of 500, started the idea last winter of having a new theatre. It was then proposed to organize a stock company with a capital of $200,000. The proposition met with favor, and the building is nearly completed. The seating capacity will be 1,800.

The stage, it is said, will be one of the largest in the country, having a proscenium opening of thirty-eight feet, and a working depth behind the curtain line of fifty feet, with seventy two feet between the side walls and seventy feet in height to the rigging loft. The theatre it is said, is nearer to two thirds of the population of Brooklyn than any other theatre in the city. C. Mortimer Wicke is manager.

johndereszewski on December 6, 2009 at 7:17 am

Thanks so much for the quick response to my suggestion. The knowledge that McElfatrick’s firm designed the Amphion underlines the “high class” status it enjoyed in its early years.

johndereszewski on December 5, 2009 at 7:43 am

Sorry, the link was JF’s next to the last posting. This is the article dated in 1902.

johndereszewski on December 5, 2009 at 7:38 am

Here is the Greenpoint’s CT page. The article referenced above was JF’s final posting for 12/4/09.


johndereszewski on December 5, 2009 at 7:33 am

An article, which I can’t link, that J.F. Lundy posted on the RKO Greenpoint page yesterday, lists McElfatrick and Sons as the Amphion’s architect. This information should be added to the top of this page.

Bway on July 4, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Thanks for all your information John! Very interesting…

johndereszewski on July 3, 2009 at 2:41 pm

I visited the old Amphion today and have a lot to report.

The site of the old theater is now part of the Bedford Playground, a NYC Dept. of Parks site that has served the community since the early 1960’S. Prior to that, it was a vacant lot owned by the Schaeffer Brewery. Since the beermakers wanted to consolidate their business development on a river-front site that was designated for a park, they traded the park-property for this site. Thus, that is how the old theater became a part of an active playground.

This is something that you have to visit in order to know what had occurred. Viewing the Building Dept. on-line items, you would think that this property never became City-owned – much less converted to a municipal park. But this just underlines the limitations of trusting what you see on the internet!

I hope the Parks Department will add the baseball revelations to its description of this site.

johndereszewski on July 1, 2009 at 3:05 am

Thanks for the comment LM. It’s good to see your notes appended to the right theater.

Regarding “Take Me Out Yo The Ballgame’s” initial reception, I guess you can say that if you CAN’T make it in Booklyn you CAN make it everywhere else!

While, as per the Building Dept. on-line files, the site is currently vacant – and appears to have been vacant since the 1940’s – I doubt that an Urban Renewal project had anything to do with this. Until the 1970’s, when the area, which is known as the Southside Triangle, deteriorated badly, there was no governmental presence in this area. This was cetainly not the case just a block or so to the south, where massive urban renewal projects radically transformed the entire neighborhood. Recently, the Southside Triangle has made something of a come back, and some new development may very well be coming to the old Amphion site. In any event, I will try to visit this site as soon as I can.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on June 30, 2009 at 8:32 am

John….Before this theater was added to CT, I posted some information about this Amphion back in 2006 on the Amphion Theater listing for Manhattan. Here is some of that information:

“Edwin Knowles was born in Providence, RI, fifty-six years ago. When sixteen years old, he went to work as a reporter on The Providence Evening Telegram. In 1867 he began his theatrical career as an actor in the old New York Theatre. He continued before the footlights for fifteen years, appearing at different times with Lester Wallack, Lawrence Barrett, Fanny Davenport, Mary Anderson, and other famous actors and actresses. He first became a manager in 1882 when, with the late Col. Theodore Morris as a partner, he assumed control of The Grand Opera House in Elm Place, near Fulton Street, Brooklyn.

Six years later he opened the Amphion Theatre on Bedford Avenue in the Eastern District of Brooklyn. Mr. Knowles in 1891 became associated with Daniel Frohman and Al Hayman as Edwin Knowles and Co., and opened the Columbia Theatre on Washington Street, Brooklyn. Some time later Mr. Knowles leased the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Manhattan from Henry Miner. He continued in the management of this house for two years, when F.F. Proctor secured control of it. Since that time, Mr. Knowles has been associated with F. C. Whitney in the presentation of various theatrical productions".

“At the turn of the 19th century, Bushwick continued to grow as elevated trains and electric streetcars connected it to other parts of the City. A number of playhouses popped up in the area, including the Amphion Theatre, which seated 2,000 patrons. The Amphion was the first theatre in the nation with electric lights”.

The following includes an address for the Amphion theater in Brooklyn:

“The Amphion Musical Society on Oct. 1880, erected it’s building at what is now #437-441 Bedford Ave. for an opera house, opened the same year under the management of C.M. WICKE. Not being a financial success, in Jan. 1888 it was taken over by KNOWLES & MORRIS and operated as a theatre. Edward KNOWLES remaining the manager until 1897”. One site states Edwin Knowles and another calls him Edward Knowles. Its probably the same person."

“The song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game” was written in 1908 by Jack Norworth. He wrote it for his girlfriend Katie. Norworth premiered the song during his vaudeville act at Brooklyn’s Amphion Theater. The audience did not receive it well. Norworth discarded the piece in the trunk of his car. Three months later, while performing at Hammerstein’s Victoria Theater, Norworth was amazed to learn that a number of performers had added “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” into their acts. The song that had flopped in its first performance at Brooklyn’s Amphion Theater was now a vaudeville hit."

johndereszewski on June 30, 2009 at 6:16 am

A little tidbit about this long forgotten theater appears in today’s NYT on page A15. The article says that “In 1908, baseball’s greatest hit, ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame’ … made its debut at the Amphion, an opera house on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn”.

Since, as Warren noted, the Amphion began its life as a high class venue and only became a cinema after experiencing “hard times”, it probably was functioning as an “opera house” – or something close to it – in 1908.

Warren G. Harris
Warren G. Harris on September 28, 2007 at 5:59 am

The Amphion is listed in the 1927 edition of the NY Film Board of Trade’s Directory of Motion Picture Theatres, but not thereafter. It was probably too antiquated for conversion to talkies.

KenRoe on September 28, 2007 at 3:37 am

The Amphion Theatre is listed in the American Motion Picture Directory;1914-1915 edition, but has gone from listings in the 1926 edition of Film Daily Yearbook.