RKO Greenpoint Theatre

825 Manhattan Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11222

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LugosiResearch
LugosiResearch on December 29, 2012 at 6:28 pm

On Thursday 15 February and Saturday 24 February 1951, Bela “Dracula” Lugosi presented his in person Horror and Magic Stage show at RKO Greenpoint. Currently I am conducting research on all things Lugosi; if anyone out there actually saw either or both of these shows and/or has memorabilia (poster, handbill, photos) related to these shows, please contact Bill at Thanks in advance for any assistance!

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 25, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Actually, TT, Greenpoint was named after the green shoreline that the initial Dutch explorers encountered near the south bank of the intersection of the East River and Newtown Creek. There was nothing “Irish” about it.

By the early 1950’s, Greenpoint had hosted a large Irish population for nearly a century. So, the vaudeville act you referenced must have had a wide following.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on April 25, 2011 at 1:21 pm

Judging by the stage bill, Greenpoint must have had a substantial Irish population. Maybe that’s why it was named Greenpoint, or “Greenpernt” as some Brooklyners pronounce it.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Wow, TT, this may very well have been the last time that real vaudeville acts appeared at the Greenpoint. By the time I came of cinematic age in the mid-to-late 50’s, vaudeville at the RKO Greenpoint was clearly a thing of the past.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on April 25, 2011 at 10:26 am

On this night only in 1952, the RKO Greenpoint presented vaudeville to hype attendance for the opening day of the Warner Bros. double bill of “Retreat, Hell!” and “The Big Trees.” The stage bonus consisted of “Hayden’s Irish Memories Revue,” with a cast of fifteen.

lfreimauer
lfreimauer on March 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm

It’s amazing when you realize how many RKO and Loew’s theaters there were in so many local neighborhoods and basically they are all gone.

Hard to belive how times have changed.

jflundy
jflundy on March 1, 2011 at 9:34 am

View link

Link to photo for sale on ebay taken March 3, 1928

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on January 1, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Bway, at one time, I thought that the building you referenced might have been the old opera house, but I don’t think this is the case for at least two reasons. First, it is situated at the southwest corner of these two streets while the Index places it at or near the northwest corner. (Not an absolute disqualifier but still pretty significant.) Second – and more importantly – in checking some of the Building Dept. info for this site, I just do not think that the current building is that old.

With that said, I very fondly remember this building as the home of the New Garden Chinese Restaurant. It was, at the time – late 50’s/early 60’s – just about the only restaurant in Greenpoint that was not a diner. While, in retrospect, the quality of the food was pretty poor – their best dish was breaded veal cutlet, which was very tasty – we didn’t know the difference and thought it was a real classy place. The grand staircase leading to this second floor establishment made it seem almost regal!) At one time – before my time but well within my parants memory – this large restaurant hosted dance parties. This proved to be a harbinger for the future, since the place now hosts a Polish nightclub.

I think the old opera house was actually situated between the Greenpoint Y and Manhattan Ave. As a review of the goggle map indicates, nothing of interest currently exists in this area.

Bway
Bway on January 1, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Interesting. I wonder if this attractive building is it:

View link

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on January 1, 2011 at 6:29 am

Bway, you took the google street view of the Manhattan Ave./Meserole Street intersection, which is in Williamsburg. The old opera house was situated just west of the Manhattan/Meserole Avenue intersection, in Greenpoint. If you take this view from Manhattan Ave. looking west on Meserole, the opera house would have been situated on the right side of the street

Bway
Bway on January 1, 2011 at 5:28 am

Yes, I looked at the google street view, and there are typical tenement style old buildings on two of the corners, and the other two corners have buildings that could have replaced something, it could be either of the other two corners, one of which has a mid-century brick building, and the other, a newer condo building, which replaced something. Here’s a google street view:

View link

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 31, 2010 at 6:22 am

Bway, I wish I had you for my buyer. I had to shell out $43 for the set.

While the Index does provide excellent reference materials, it, unfortunately, does not contain a large number of photos. There is a nice one of the Wagner that I have not seen before – although the one you posted is better – and a great shot looking up Graham Ave. that captures the old Folly Theatre. And there are a number of others. However, you should not buy the Index if you only want to look at the pictures.

Regarding your question of what became of the old Opera House, the record, at least to date, is pretty blank. Most of the western portion of the block, which abuts Lorimer St., is dominated by the Greenpoint YMCA. So, it is possible that this large building could have been constructed on the old theater’s site. However, the Index places it closer to the Manhattan Ave. corner, which is not occupied by any buildings of note. So, beyond sheer speculation, we really don’t know.

PS. Have a wonderful New Year!

Bway
Bway on December 31, 2010 at 5:23 am

Ahhh, I had to do it, I found Both Vol 1 and 2 together for only $25 for both, so did the plunge….sounds to interesting to pass up.

Bway
Bway on December 31, 2010 at 5:19 am

I just looked up that book on Amazon, and it appears there’s a volume 1 and a volume 2…did you get both?
Does it have interior photos also? I am thinking about buying it.

Bway
Bway on December 31, 2010 at 5:13 am

So did the building go into some other use, or did they just tear it down some years later?

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 30, 2010 at 7:28 pm

I just bought myself a late Christmas present – Cesar Del Valle’s terrific “Brooklyn Theatre Index” – and there is a lot to enjoy.

One chestnut appearing therein apparently solves the riddle, discussed above, of the existence of the “Greenpoint Opera House”. As noted on page 16 of Volume II, this theater was actually constructed at the northwest corner of Meserole and Manhattan Aves. – with a Meserole Ave. address – and provided vaudeville and burlesque performances for all of two years – from 1892 to 1894. Although the owners definitely thought that they were providing a valuable product for a theater starved populace, this apparently wound up being a case where “if you build it, they will NOT come”.

Anyhow, the very short life span of the Opera House plus its location on a non-major street probably accounts for its almost total lack of an historical record., a situation that has now been resolved.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 5, 2009 at 8:48 am

JF’s 1902 article also raises a few interesting points. Since it was written six full years before the place actually opened – at a time when things got built a lot more rapidly – this implies a contested consruction process. Perhaps a hint of this can be gleamed from the fact that the Greenpoint was, as per the article, initially proposed to be located AT – not near – the Manhattan/Calyer intersection. This implies that the developer may have envisioned a grand entrance at the corner but had to change plans when he could not acquire the buildings situated at and near the intersection. This also probably resulted in a change of design plans. Whatever the Greenpoint was, its design had hardly be described a Moorish, as the article said it would be. But one could certainly envision a grand Moorish entrance if it had been located directly on the corner.

jflundy
jflundy on December 5, 2009 at 7:59 am

It is a mystery. I am still researching the Eagle archive. The other old newspapers probably have information. Does the Greenpoint library branch have bound issues of the Standard Union or any others for this period ?

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 5, 2009 at 7:17 am

Thanks JF, for the links, which raise a whole bunch of interesting questions.

The 1900 article references the old Union Ave. (a former name for this stretch of Manhattan Ave.) Baptist Church as a potential theater site. According to Eugene Armruster’s comprehensive account of this community, the church was situated at 750-2 Manhattan, which would place it just north of the old Garden Theater site, which was located at 742 and opened as a movie house around 1906. Armbruster added that the church was occupied by the local YMCA (which the article depicted as a likely opponent of this project) and then demolished in 1914 to make way for a post office, which itself no longer exists here. So I guess one can infer that the potenial theater developers, after having been stymied by the Y, opened the Garden just down the block. Or perhaps not. (The Building Dept’s data, which treats 740-54 Manhattan Ave. as a single entity, does not shed any further light on this subject.)

But what of the 1895 article and the “old Greenpoint”? The 1902 article paints a pretty clear picture of Greenpoint’s “theater starved” status and Armbruster, who mentions everything – including the Garden – says nary a word about a 1,600 seat theater. (His section on Meserole Ave., where the old theater was apparently situated, is however very sketchy.) Unless the writer of the earlier article just made things up or got the address totally wrong, my guess is that the old Greenpoint lived a very short life and disappeared nearly without a trace.

Any other ideas?

jflundy
jflundy on December 4, 2009 at 2:05 pm

This is an earlier article from 1900 concerning another proposed theater project. It would appear from the text in both articles, this one and the one above, that no real theaters existed in Greenpoint in this period.
View link

jflundy
jflundy on December 4, 2009 at 1:53 pm

This article relating to a new Greenpoint Theatre, far to large to post here, appears in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on page 42 July 27, 1902 issue:
View link

jflundy
jflundy on December 4, 2009 at 7:17 am

Thanks John, the link was good. I will mine the pages of the digital Eagle as time permits for other references.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 3, 2009 at 7:44 pm

JF, the following link, if it works, should document the 1895 Brooklyn Eagle notice that LM referenced. If it does not work, just Google “Greenpoint Theatre” and “Brooklyn” and it should come up as one of the first hits.

After thinking this matter over, I believe that the old Greenpoint Theatre probably existed – in descending order – in one of three locations, all of which are situated in close proximity to the Manhattan/Meserole Ave. intersection: (1) 98-104 Mesorole, a large site that was once a large Chinese restaurant and is now a Polish nightclub; (2) 90 Meserole, which now hosts the 90th Precinct; and (3) 99 Meserole, upon which the Greenpoint YMCA currently exists. All three uses are situated on large lots that probably hosted other significant uses before their current buildings became realities. One of these may have been the old Greenpoint Theatre. This should provide a good base line upon which to direct any further investigation.

The bottom line, however, is that the old Greenpoint Theatre, whatever its prominence, probably lived and died before the significant onset of the cinema era. Thus, while it may have hosted many dramatic and musical events, it probably was not a cinematic mecca.

Hope this helps fill in this gap.

View link

jflundy
jflundy on December 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I have both the 1896 and 1900 Brooklyn Daily Eagle Almanac editions.
I just checked both but was unable to find a listing or ad for the Greenpoint Theater. The 1900 edition lists many more theaters but it is possible that the Greenpoint Theater existed but was not listed for 1896, nor in 1900.
It may also be that the name was changed after 1895 or perhaps it was destroyed by fire or some other event. A detailed check of the pages of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle newspaper for 1895, 96, 97, 98, and 99 which are available online at the Brooklyn Public Library site may reveal more about this Theater. It would take a lot of time.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 2, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Interesting comment, LM. I also checked the Brooklyn Eagle comment and can only add the following.

My best guess is that the “Greenpoint Theater” was situated closer to the old Meserole and Garden Theaters' than to the old RKO Greenpoint, since they were situated far closer to the Meserole Ave. intersection. But since both theaters only came on board in the 1900’s, they probably did not replace this theater. Also, since the Meserole was, as per local historian Eugene Armbruster, constructed on the site of Greenpoint’s Meserole Farm, it probably did not replace the older theater. (The Garden, which only possessed a 600 person capacity, was just too small to replace this theater.)

The best guess is that the old Greenpoint was a legitimate theater – and possible a music hall – that lived and died before the onset of cinema. It is strange, however, that no other evidence of this large 1,600 venue exists.