Fort Jay Theatre

Owasco Road at Division Road,
Governors Island,
New York, NY 11231

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Located on Governors Island, Fort Jay is a former US military base of the US Army and Coast Guard. Built in 1939, the Fort Jay Theatre was constructed under the supervision of the Army Motion Picture Services. Seating in the Art Moderne style auditorium was provided on a stadium plan, with a raised section at the rear, but no overhanging balcony. In 1941, the Fort Jay Theatre is listed as under the control of the Eastern District Office of the U.S. Army Motion Picture Service, who were based at 904 RKO Building, Rockefeller Center, NY., and in 1943, this office was booking 81 army theatres in the Eastern District.

The program at the Fort Jay Theatre was live theater and first run movies. Irving Berlin’s "This is Army" was inspired by a show that the composer saw in 1942 at the theatre. In its last years, families living on the island could enjoy double features for two dollars. "Lost in Time 2" was the last movie shown, when the Coast Guard mothballed the theatre in 1996, when the military base closed.

The National Park Service has taken over. On Open House Weekend in 2009, the public was able to visit to see a film, about 20 minutes of the horror genre, as part of a larger art installation on the former military base.

Contributed by Howard B Haas

Recent comments (view all 16 comments)

johndereszewski on December 7, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Thanks Ed for swinging the Google map to capture a look at the old theater.

If the Fort Jay Theatre is situated on that portion of the island as is indicated on the map. then I think its chances of survival are pretty good. In fact, it may very well have a new life as a greeting/presentation center for the new development.

The portion of Governer’s Island that will be radically changed is the southern portion, which is mainly landfill, that consists of relatively newly constructed residences for the military staff – and their families – who were assigned there. These are hardly “historic” buildings and their replacement by a park and other modern institutions will be a positive development. But, this should not affect the old movie house.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 8, 2011 at 6:12 am

Actually, John, the map location is wrong. I still think it’s in a fairly safe location (within the green colored portion of the map). The theater is situated on Owasco Road at the corner of Division Road. If you drag the map up a little, its near the sharp corner at the bottom of the green area where Division runs into Craig Road South. Zoom in a bit and all the side street names are labeled. The facade faces northwest on Owasco Rd and the auditorium wall runs southeast along Division. I wonder if there is a proper address for the building. If so, updating the information on this page may relocate the map pin to its correct location.

HowardBHaas on December 8, 2011 at 6:16 am

If somebody can find a “proper address” we will post it. I don’t think I could find it online when I added this one.

johndereszewski on December 8, 2011 at 6:53 am

I googled the theatre and came up with the website page that I unsuccessfully tried to link at the bottom of this message. (Haven’t yet figured out how to do this under the new system.) If someone can make the link work, please do so, since it contains a number of interesting pictures of the Fort Jay.

The address referenced in that site is simply: Division Road at Owasaco Road. That is about as exact as it gets. However, even if we cannot indicate an exact street address – and it is possible that a specific street number was never designated to it – I think this location should be indicated at the top of the page.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Since the entrance is on Owasco, I would update the address to “Owasco Road at Division Road.” I think that’s likely as accurate as we are going to get. Not sure what the map will do with that data.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 9, 2011 at 11:03 am

Well… changing the address to include the intersection didn’t move the drop-pin on the map. I wonder if they had to drop the “Governor’s Island” part of the address for a specific reason. The “112” prefix in the zip code would normally indicate a Brooklyn, NY, address, not one in New York, NY.

johndereszewski on December 10, 2011 at 9:53 am

Ed, I agree with you that the zip code is very odd – and probably not correct. The 11231 zone includes the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, which is separated from Governors Island by Buttermilk Channel. As witnessed by the two Ridgewood zip codes that once straddled the Queens/Brooklyn border, zip codes do not always conform to county lines. But, in this situation, the ONLY public way to access the island has always been via the ferry leaving from the Battery in Manhattan. Also, Governors Island has always been a part of the Borough of Manhattan. Thus, no rational reason exists to lump this area into Brooklyn. I am sure that a Manhattan zip code – probably 10004, which covers the Battery area – covers this area. But, however, since nobody currently lives there, it will be hard to find out.

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 10, 2011 at 11:33 am

There are some interior shots at this site:

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on December 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm

By the way, entering “Owasco Road at Division Road, Governors Island, NY” (with or without an apostrophe in “Governor’s”) does bring up a correct google map indicator – at least it did when I tried it a few minutes ago. I think the address should be modified to drop the “New York, NY” in favor of “Governors Island, NY.”

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 12, 2011 at 6:15 am

Has anyone else noticed that if you choose New York, New York City on the CT search option there are no listings?

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