Alhambra Theatre

783 Knickerbocker Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11207

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Bway on November 13, 2018 at 4:31 pm

Here is a stunning old photo of the Alhambra from the NYC 1940’s archives. I believe the address above is incorrect, as the NYC site says it is at 797 Knickerbocker Ave, as when I tried to search for 783 Knickerbocker, just a normal tenement building came up

TorstenAdair on August 26, 2017 at 7:31 pm 75.207.34 Anthony F. Dumas Alhambra Theatre DATE:1932 Halsey St. & Knickerbocker Ave. Brooklyn N.Y. drawing (visual work) pen-and-ink drawing H: 11 in, W: 16 in

Bway on February 23, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Wow, if you click on street view above, you can get a fairly recent image of what it looks like. Nice job!

johndereszewski on February 21, 2017 at 8:21 am

Visiting Bushwick on President’s Day, I was able to pass by the old theater. The renovation is just about complete and it looks like people should be moving in pretty soon. While lighter colors than the original cover the fa├žade and – unfortunately – the roof over the tower at the Halsey/Knickerbocker corner has apparently not been restored – overall they did a very nice job of restoration. This new residence will add a lot of class and elegance to this rapidly gentrifying part of Bushwick.

johndereszewski on November 4, 2015 at 3:53 pm

I passed by the site yesterday. Construction has very much commenced on the new Alhambra apartments site. It looks like this will be a very interesting restorative job – a great homage to the past. Too bad the old day care center was swept to the wayside.

johndereszewski on October 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm

Bway, I guess the one thing that was NOT a win was the loss of the day care center, a badly needed facility, at this location. Hopefully, an alternate site has been identified, though – in this rapidly gentrifying area – I have my doubts. In any event, the current use as a day care center noted at the top of the page needs to be changed.

Bway on October 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm

A real nice project for the area. While none of the original exterior of the building still remains anyway, and am pretty sure very little if any of the interior of the old Alhambra, this does improve the building, while still keeping a small hint of it’s former purpose as a theater. A win for everyone.

johndereszewski on October 23, 2014 at 11:40 am

The Wyckoff Heights blog, which in 2013 reported that the old Alhambra will be converted into housing, has now printed a rendering of what the new residence will look like. (You can access this site at It will now house 38 apartments – instead of the 24 previously reported; the rendering also seems to indicate that a third floor will be added to it – hence perhaps the increase in apartments. A 2015 opening date is also provided.

While the facade, which currently features almost none of the old movie house’s ornamentation, will be modernized, the current building will be retained. And the rounded tower at the corner will still be with us. By the way, the name of the new residence will be the Alhambra Theatre Apartments.

johndereszewski on December 30, 2013 at 11:06 am

Astyanax, I think you are referring to the FOLLY Theatre, which once graced the corner of Graham Ave. and Debevoice St. In looking at photos of the two theaters, one does notice a slight resemblance. However, they were the work of different architects – Dodge and Morrison for the Folly and Carlson and Wiseman for the Alhambra.

While I am at it, thanks site manager for changing the Alhambra’s capacity figure so promptly.

Astyanax on December 30, 2013 at 8:58 am

The appearance of the Alhambra with the rounded corner tower, reminds me of the architecture of the Foley, built about 20 years earlier on Graham Ave. Was there an architectural connection?

johndereszewski on December 28, 2013 at 11:19 pm

In the photo section, Tinseltoes recently posted an ad for the movie “The Soul of Buddha”, staring Theda Bara. Since the picture was released in 1918, the year the Alhambra opened, this must have been one of the earlier films to be presented here.

By the way, both the ad and the Brooklyn Theatre index indicate a 2,200 capacity for the Alhambra. The Index also does not allude to any capacity decrease that subsequently occurred. For this reason, the 1,600 capacity noted at the top of the page is apparently wrong and needs to be corrected.

Jpic121 on December 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm

In doing some family history research I have learned that I am the Great grandson of Arthur G. Carlson. I was surprised to see some of his works shown here.

John, in one of your earlier posts you mentioned how you did not know why one architect had taken credit for most of the works and Carlson only showed up once or twice. The reason for this is that my Great Grand Father Arthur died at the age of 35 leaving his partner Weisman to use and finish Arthur’s designs.

johndereszewski on September 28, 2013 at 10:05 am

A local blog called Wyckoff Heights, which covers real estate transactions very thoroughly, is reporting that the old Alhambra will be converted into 24 units of housing. Given its location just off a recently restored Irving Square Park, this is not a surprising development. I hope alternate space will be identified for the day care center, though I doubt it.

johndereszewski on December 19, 2010 at 10:44 am

I just linked an article that I recently wrote in the terrific BushwickBk blog that discussed a number of old Bushwick theaters, including the Alhambra. Several vintage and current pictures of this site also appear in an extended slideshow that also includes a number of other old theater sites. Hope you enjoy it.

View link

johndereszewski on December 5, 2010 at 11:29 pm

If you scroll up to the great vintage picture that Tinseltoes posted here on March 30 and enlarge it, you will note that a movie called “The Old Soak” – I’m not making this up – was playing at the time of the photo. Checking it out, I found that the movie – a detective drama that starred Gene Hershalt – premiered in late 1926. So this picture was probably shot in 1927, when the movie reached the “nabes”.

johndereszewski on October 12, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Thanks site manager so much for correcting the bad information that I received regarding the demise of this site as a day care center. I guess that while the advocates to save the day care center went to the press as much as they could as long as the center’s future remained in doubt, they pretty much forgot to tell the wider public about the center’s salvation once it had been achieved.

Anyhow, the center’s notice that they are still here apppears below, and I wish them the best for the future.

johndereszewski on October 12, 2010 at 2:57 am

I just noticed that the top of the page has been changed to reflect the closing of the center that – as I just noted – did not occur after all. I hope the site manager will update this item accordingly – and I regret having provided inaccurate informtion. (I guess this is one of those things you just have to verify via a site visit.)

johndereszewski on October 11, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Some GREAT news!

The demise of the day care center at the old Alhambra apparently did not occur, and I was misinformed in saying so. Instead, as verified by my site visit earlier today, the City and the landlord made an 11th hour – or perhaps 13th hour is more like it – agreement that keeps the center operating. The staff that I spoke to were very relieved that the worst had not occured and were very much looking forward to continuing to serve the youth of Bushwick in the future.

During my quick site visit, I told the staff that the center had once been a movie theater, and they knew it. When I asked if anything cinematic remained, they noted that, except for a lighting fixture on the top floor, the place had pretty much been gutted to accommodate its present – and hopefully future – use.

So, the old theater will continue to serve the Bushwick community, albeit as a day care center, for the forseeing future. This is really great news!

johndereszewski on September 26, 2010 at 9:02 am

First, site manager, thanks for adding Carlson’s name so promptly.

And Joe, thanks again for your commment about Wiseman. I had no idea that he was responsible for such gems as the landmarked City Cinemas Village East (this theater must have set the record for most previous names), the former Fillmore East and, one of my favorite neighhood houses, the still existing – and hopefully prospering – Cinemart. I also saw that you were recently successful in getting Wiseman’s name added as architect in CT to several theaters. Congratulations on that point.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 25, 2010 at 7:57 pm

It’s not unusual for one partner in a firm to dominate in design while the other spends more time in managing the business. That was probably the case with Carlson & Wiseman. There’s quite a bit of information about Wiseman on the Internet, but very little about Carlson. But Harrison G. Wiseman was a very well-known theater architect in the early 20th century and designed many theaters outside Brooklyn, though the firm was based there. In one 1920 publication, the firm’s address was listed as 226 Henry Street.

Wiseman designed several theaters in Manhattan, some of them during the years of his partnership with Carlson, as well as theaters in other places. Cinema Treasures’s list of Wiseman’s work currently attributes 16 theaters to him, five in Manhattan (two Wiseman theaters there are not yet attributed: The Lido and the New Delancey. My recent comment on the New Delancey also gives the names of two early Wiseman houses that are either not yet listed at Cinema Treasures, or are listed but don’t have their original names listed as aka’s.)

There are also a few Wiseman-designed theaters that aren’t listed at Cinema Treasures because they’ve never operated as movie houses. But so far, the Alhambra is not just the only theater, but the only building of any kind that I’ve found attributed specifically to Arthur G. Carlson. Why Wiseman didn’t take the lead on this particular project I don’t know. Maybe he was just too busy.

johndereszewski on September 25, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Joe, thanks for the very detailed explanation of the CT process.

In further exploring the work of the Carlson and Wiseman firm, I noted that they are, at least in CT, responsible for only three other movie houses – the old Albemarle and Carlton and the still existing Alpine – all of which are or were situated in Brooklyn. So this was probably a pretty locally based firm. In addition, Wiseman – not Carlson – is the architect credited for the other three theaters. If true, this would make the Alhambra the only movie house, at least according to CT, that was designed by Arthur Carlson. This is yet another reson why he needs to be listed at the top of the page.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 24, 2010 at 8:06 pm

John: I see that Carlson & Wiseman is already listed in the “Firm” field, and now that I’ve cited a source for attribution, Arthur G. Carlson will probably be listed in the “Architect” field, eventually. I try to post my comments during hours when they are most likely to be seen by one of the site’s moderators (Ken Roe is often online updating pages when it’s early in the morning my time, as he’s usually in London), but apparently nobody saw the comments I made this morning.

The “Architect” field on Cinema Treasures pages is set up to list by surname alphabetically, so if Carlson is added to this page his name would appear before Lamb’s. Quite often, though, on other pages an architect who remodeled a theater gets listed first, simply because the original architect’s name starts with a later letter of the alphabet.

It would probably require a extensive changes to the site’s code to create separate fields for original architects and later architects who only did remodeling jobs. I’m not sure that such a change would be the best thing to do, anyway. In some cases remodeling jobs were so extensive that they obliterated much, most, or virtually all of the original design, making the architect of the remodeling the de facto primary architect of the theater as most people knew it. I don’t know if Patrick and Ross have any plans for an overhaul of the site’s code, but I know that any such project would be complex and costly, so I’m not really expecting it. I know that the site’s resources are limited.

For now, I’d say the best policy is probably the one already in use; to list in their appropriate fields all architects and firms who did some significant work on a theater, but to also include their names in the description of the theater, along with whatever information is available about how much or how little each contributed to the design during each period of a theater’s history. Descriptions at Cinema Treasures do get updated as new information becomes available, but with so many theaters listed, and so few moderators on the site to do the rewrites, that can take a long time.

I’ve sometimes wondered if a Wiki might help speed up the process. A Wiki, not for the general public but for members, or maybe even only those members who ask to be involved, could provide a good-sized pool of people to update the descriptions (preferably with sourced information), and do it out of public view. Then the moderators could inspect the updated descriptions on the Wiki each day, and decide whether or not to put a particular rewrite onto that theater’s regular public page. Adding a Wiki would be a considerable amount of work, and some expense, of course, but the gains might be worth it.

johndereszewski on September 24, 2010 at 9:17 am

Joe, thanks so much for these two terrific pictures. The interior shot is a really rare find.

The caption, however, raises a question that needs to be addressed. Specifically, if the Alhambra’s architect was Arthur G. Carlson, why is this task attributed solely to Thomas Lamb at the top of the page? In reviewing the previous coments, I found a statement from Lost Memory – dated 9/4/05 – noting that Lamb was only involved in the 1927 alteration that probably upgraded the theater as a movie house and equipped it for sound. A similar situation happened with the RKO Bushwick, where Lamb executed certain interior renovations years after the place opened for business.

Given Lamb’s sterling reputation, it is not surprising that his participation is duly noted – but this is done at the expense of the original architect. For this reason, fairness dictates that the title needs to be changed to designate Carlson as the principal architect while also noting Lamb’s subsequent contributions.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 24, 2010 at 7:00 am

Here are two photos showing the exterior and auditorium of the Alhambra Theatre, from the January, 1918, issue of the trade journal Architecture and Building.

The caption attributes the design to architect Arthur G. Carlson alone, though he was in partnership with Harrison Wiseman from about 1915 until about 1926, during the period the Alhambra opened.

johndereszewski on September 21, 2010 at 9:57 pm

It seems as if the Day Care center DID close at the end of August. Thus, this space is empty until anything else moves in. Hope some good program moves in here – though I have my doubts.