Steinway Theatre

31-08 Steinway Street,
Astoria, NY 11103

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Steinway Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

Except for two concert halls in New York City, the Steinway Theatre may be the only theatre to ever carry the name of the legendary piano manufacturer, though it had no corporate connection. Located in the Astoria section of Queens, the theatre was the first one to be built on Astoria’s main shopping road, which was named in honor of the Steinway piano factory at its north end on the East River. Built around 1914-15, the Steinway Theatre was designed by the architectural firm of E.C. Horn & Sons for plays and vaudeville, and had about 900 seats.

By the time that the much larger Astoria Theatre and Triboro Theatre were built on Steinway Street, the Steinway Theatre was relegated to playing late-run double features for the rest of its theatrical life, which lasted into the 1950’s, when the interior was converted into retail space. The current tenant, Dr. Jay’s Urban Clothing, has covered the beautiful white marble facade with a modern metallic shield.

Contributed by Warren G. Harris

Recent comments (view all 22 comments)

AlexNYC
AlexNYC on July 8, 2007 at 2:53 pm

I was recently looking at various vintage Queens photos online and came across this wintery image of Steinway Street in Astoria from 1935, which includes in gthe center a moving northbound trolley. Looking further, I was delighted to see on the left the rare image the marquee of the Steinway Theatre. On the right at the intersection of 31st Avenue is the building which was occupied by Woolworth’s for several decades.

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AlexNYC
AlexNYC on January 31, 2009 at 1:27 pm

That’s wishful thinking Warren, I hope you’re right. More likely is that they will just tear the building down altogether and build another multiple-story monstrosity as they have been doing these last few years in Astoria.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 8, 2009 at 9:03 am

As of yesterday, when I walked by, the apparently never ending “lost our lease” sale remains going strong at Dr. Jay’s. When viewed from across the street, you can really see the skin of a once beautiful facade struggling to burst from its ugly body armor.

I think Warren is probably correct that the future history of this building will be commercial and that, save for the not very likely appearance of a replacement tenant, the site will probably lie vacant until the economy begins to turn north. The structure is really good and ample commercial space that is situated less than a block from the shopping district’s heart at Broadway. Thus, it would make little sense to replace the current building with another commercial facility, and the mid-block site is just too commercial for residential development. Also, if something other than another crummy outlet moves in, the possible replacement of the current facade – possibly with the original – could be a real possibility. But, we will have to see what unfolds.

Alex, I really appreciated your kind comments about my remembrances of the Triboro that I posted about a year ago. It is great to once again make your acquaintance.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 8, 2009 at 11:30 am

Warren, your last comments just confirm my previous points. Thank’s for your support.

GerardC
GerardC on February 19, 2009 at 1:06 am

I had thought the thread for this theatre was not active, but I see it is. Growing up in Astoria, I always knew this was a “movie house” (as my parents / grand parents described it.) But for me it was “Learners” , a woman’s / little kid’s store (they had a kid’s department as well).. I know I spent alot of time here when I was little! It was a big store inside, without a hint it was a theatre, I guess thanks to plaster board and dropped ceilings. Talking about the white marble facade.. that was not original to the Steinway theatre. I believe that was part of the late fifties change to “Learners”. Up untill Learners closed, the front of the building was very 50’s looking with a smooth white front with a HUGE LEARNERS neon sign on a 45 degree angle running up the front of the building (lit up in pink neon)I am sure, from viewing photos of the Steinway that the front was destroyed in the original make over to retail. (about the interior, I would not know. In my time (70’s) it was all dropped ceiling.) When they re-opened as DR.Jays, It was all open structure inside. IE exposed brick and I beams. but if you were to walk to the back of the store and go up stairs to the second level, you were walking up through the “ Fly space.” You could /can see a ladder bolted to the wall going up to the roof, you could see, in your minds eye (with help from some bricks and beams, where the auditorium ended and the back stage began.

Bway
Bway on May 26, 2009 at 8:03 am

Here’s a street view from google of the Steinway:

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deleted user
[Deleted] on September 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm

The building is still sitting vacant with a “For Rent” sign displayed. The “false front” used by the last tenant remains. Whether any of the original facade exists behind it is unknown. I’ll try contacting the realtor for information.

robboehm
robboehm on September 6, 2009 at 4:56 pm

I was a teenager when the closed theatre was converted to retail space – I believe it was Lerner’s. I tried to see what remained of the old theatre through the construction. If my recollection is correct the entire facade of the building was removed. Also, in later years I remember standing on Steinway Street and looking back at the building reinforcing my theory that there was a whole new facade. But that was 50 years ago.

robboehm
robboehm on June 30, 2010 at 5:46 pm

Tinseltoes can you tell if any of the old theatre facade is still there? I think it was removed when Lerner’s moved in some 50 years ago.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Well, my wife and I passed by the old Steinway yesterday evening and found that the “modernistic” facade has been removed and that the old white marble frontage now appears to have burst from its “iron mask”. While a remnant of the “Dr. Jays” logo remains etched in the surface, this can probably be corrected – or, perhaps one could say, exorcized.

Since it was dark when we visited the site, I can’t definitively verify this development. What I CAN say is that my wife, who was not previously aware of the site’s specific history, made an unprompted comment that “this looks like an old theater” when she saw it. This comment could not have been made while the awful Dr. Jays facade defiled the exterior.

I hope that other commentators will visit the site, take pictures and either verify or contradict my observations. If I am correct here, this facade could very easily support the development of a classy business, such as a bank or a good restaurant. In any event, let’s take a close look of this very promising recent development.

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