St. James Theatre

176 Second Street,
St. James, NY 11780

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St. James Theatre

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Ground was broken for this, the third venue in town to bear the St. James name, on April 2, 1929. The 35 x 90 stucco, fireproof structure was built at a cost of $25,000 for John Brennan by Westerbeke Builders of West Sayville. Henry Kost, operator of the Sayville Theatre, leased the property for five years to expand his theatrical interests. The St. James Theatre is located one block east of the main north-south artery, Lake Avenue, around the corner from the first original St. James Theatre, which still stands, and which dates back to the first decade of the 20th century.

At some point this St. James Theatre was taken over by the Calderone Circuit. The St. James Theatre was closed about 1950, and is currently used for office space.

Contributed by rvb

Recent comments (view all 18 comments)

robboehm
robboehm on March 14, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Pouring over early editions of the Smithtown Messenger, the microfiche only begins in 1922, hasn’t clarified matters. Since the building which housed the final theater appeared in the 1927 aerial photo I was trying to determine when it opened. I found a couple of isolated ads for a Casino Theater in St. James in 1922, 23 and 24. Nothing for 1925, 26 or 27. Will have to spend another day check 1928 and on, possibly through 1940 when I actually have seen images of theater cards. So was the St. James the former Casino? Was the aerial photo taken later? Hopefully the matter will be resolved.

robboehm
robboehm on April 19, 2013 at 7:34 am

More strike outs. Contacted the Town of Smithtown Building Department. They only started issuing Certificates of Occupancy in 1946. For this property it was only for subsequent modifications after the theater closed. Contacted the Assessors Office. Their records also begin in 1946. Only new information: the building was 35 x 90 (tiny, particularly for a Calderone property). On the current Tax Map as Section 56; Block 2, Lot 8.

robboehm
robboehm on August 18, 2013 at 10:30 am

Geoffrey Fleming was able to find material on the construction of the St. James which I’ve included in the revised heading. Apparently the date of the aerial photo alluded to previously is CIRCA 1927. Probably more like 1930.

robboehm
robboehm on August 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm

From the photo above you can see the windows and skylights added for the new second floor.

robboehm
robboehm on August 19, 2013 at 7:39 am

According to references in The Long Islander, the St. James housed summer theater performances in 1934.

robboehm
robboehm on January 2, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Theater cards from the St. James Long Island “Calderone” movie theater. Left to right: “Waterloo Bridge, ” New Moon, “Edison the Man, ” all released 1940. Courtesy of Geoffrey K. Fleming, author of Images of America: St. James.

GeorgeStrum
GeorgeStrum on February 10, 2014 at 5:16 pm

I am a resident of Saint James N.Y. and a member of the Theatre Historical Society. I became intrigued with the building long known for being a former vaudeville/movie house for the community from the 1910’s to 1950. I learned it was called The Calderone Saint James. I visited it recently and found it to be rented out by a guy who runs his own flea market selling all kinds of junk. It used to be a showroom for an interior decorator named Ruth Weinstein who moved into another store down the street. I was doing research in the Smithtown Library and found that the 1927 microfilm edition of the Messenger had nothing about the theatre. I suppose later editions would or other papers. I plan to give a talk at the library next year about what entertainment was available in Smithtown back in the day to go with the town’s upcoming 300th anniversary.

robboehm
robboehm on February 11, 2014 at 6:58 am

I got some information on the St. James from Geoffrey K. Fleming and found the image of the original (see the other CT listing) in his book. This theatre building also appears in his book as a 1927 aerial view. I have not been able to determine when it was built or obtain an exterior photo of the facade in it’s day. Tried with the Buildings and Tax Department but their records only go back to the 1940s. When I visited this theatre a couple of years ago Ruth let me go upstairs where I photoed the restored ceiling decoration. One of these days I’ll upload them.

I only got wind of the St. James when I was looking for something else in an old Newsday Movie Time Table.

Since this was a Calderone Theatre acquired by the son of Salvatore, who was the theatre magnet, and died in 1929, there would be nothing in the Calderone collection at Hofstra.

I’ve tried looking at the newspaper records which are available on line but found no activity. I did find, however, references to other theatrical activity in the town (but didn’t record that).

robboehm
robboehm on February 20, 2014 at 6:49 am

Amending an earlier comment. In light of later information indicating ground was broken for the theater in April 1929, it is apparent that the aerial photograph labelled 1927 was taken at a later date. The when may be tough to establish.

robboehm
robboehm on April 2, 2014 at 11:01 am

According to the Smithtown Messenger “Johnnie Brennan’s” theatre opened October 1, 1929. At a reported cost of $ 25,000 the 30 x 90 stucco building was intended as a venue for vaudeville and films. At opening it was called The Little Playhouse at St. James and under a five year lease to Henry Kost who operated theatres in Sayville and Patchogue.

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