Alhambra Theatre

783 Knickerbocker Avenue,
Bushwick,
Brooklyn, NY 11207

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Showing 1 - 25 of 112 comments

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 30, 2013 at 6:06 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
Astyanax on December 30, 2013 at 3:58 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
johndereszewski on December 28, 2013 at 6:19 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
Jpic121 on December 1, 2013 at 3:02 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
johndereszewski on September 28, 2013 at 4:05 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.

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on May 25, 2012 at 10:33 am

Here’s a pre-construction sketch of the Alhambra Theatre: brooklynpubliclibrary

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 19, 2010 at 5:44 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
johndereszewski on December 5, 2010 at 6:29 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
johndereszewski on October 12, 2010 at 2:37 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.

http://www.grandstreet.org/html/news.shtml

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on October 11, 2010 at 8:57 pm

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
johndereszewski on October 11, 2010 at 12:03 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
johndereszewski on September 26, 2010 at 3:02 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 1:57 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
johndereszewski on September 25, 2010 at 6:48 am

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 2:06 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
johndereszewski on September 24, 2010 at 3:17 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 1:00 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
johndereszewski on September 21, 2010 at 3:57 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.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on July 10, 2010 at 2:17 pm

My statement that the owner might be interested in developing the site for condo housing was sheer speculation that was based upon the prime location of this property. If this is the owner’s intent, the housing in question would certainly not be “affordable”, at least for 99% of Bushwick’s residents. So this would hardly be a conflict between two “social service programs”.

Hopefully, my speculative comment was just that – and I only hope that the owner and the City will be able to work out a deal that will enable the day care center to remain in place after August 31.

Astyanax
Astyanax on July 10, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Curious how one social service program is pitted against another if indeed the Alhambra is suppose to give way to affordable housing. City contracts have paid for upgrades to the site to accomodate the day care center and keep it in code compliance. This investment would be lost if the program closes. Is there no other site in Bushwick where the housing program can be realized? Even in its current use, the theatre building is still serving the community.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on July 9, 2010 at 6:15 pm

The current Times Newsweekly has a pretty extensive article about this rally. While the situation does appear to be prety dire, it certainly does not rule out the possibility of an 11th – or, more accurately, 12th – hour settlement. At least one can hope.

Astyanax
Astyanax on July 9, 2010 at 4:33 pm

Grand Street Settlement held a rally on the steps of City Hall a few days ago protesting the closure of the day care center despite the critical need in the community. Both the landlord and city negotiators appear to be deadlocked.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on July 5, 2010 at 3:13 pm

Another possibiliy here is that the City and the landlord are engaged in a continuing game of chicken that might result in an 11th hour settlement that will enable the day care center to remain in operation. Far stranger things have happened.

I really hope this is the case, since the center is a valuable community resource and the building, which, like the old Bushwick, was probably altered beyond recognition when the center was established, is never going to return as a theater.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on July 4, 2010 at 2:27 am

The current Times Newsweekly reports that the day care center currently housed in the old Alhambra will soon close. Apparently, the reason for this involves the City’s unwillingness to pay the extensive rent hike that the landlard has demanded. The program itself, which will be greatly missed in this needy community, is highly regarded.

Given the Alhambra’s location right off scenic Irving Square Park, its conversion into housing is certainly a possibility. Yet, given the current economic situation, this seems to be a pretty risky proposition. The landlord may have been better advised to be satisfied with a lower rent increase. Stay tuned.