Grove Theater

474 Wilson Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

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Similar to the nearby Luxor Theater, the Grove Theater was a neighborhood movie house in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick, at the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Jefferson Avenue.

It opened in 1912 as the Jefferson Casino Theater. By June 1915, there was also an air-dome theater operating adjacent at 478 Wilson Avenue.

In 1920, thru to 1927 it operated as the Wilson Theater. In 1928 it was renamed Rige Theater. Renamed Grove Theater on April 20, 1935, it was closed in 1951.

Contributed by Peter Koch

Recent comments (view all 24 comments)

Bway
Bway on October 14, 2008 at 4:41 am

It has to be. I think the photo was taken with a telephoto lens….look at how close together the trees look. When you zoom, it squooshes everything closer together in illusion. I looked at the aerial image of the location at local.live, and the first building that is cornered off which is next to the Grove on Jefferson is still there, so the 5 lots with the new houses do take up the whole area where the Grove used to be, and they are all about 20 feet wide….so it’s just an illusion that the Grove isn’t 100+– feet deep.

Bway
Bway on October 16, 2008 at 8:52 am

Here’s a photo I took yesterday at the location of the old Jefferson Casino, aka Grove theater….to match with the historic 1908 Brooklyn Pix photo of the theater:

Click here for 2008 Photo I took

Click here for 1908 Photo 100 Years ago to the year

Bway
Bway on April 20, 2009 at 7:03 am

Does anyone know when the Grove was torn down?

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 1, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Bway, a belated response to your question.

In searching the NYC Building Depts.‘ files on its web site, I noted a 1980 demolition date. This was probably the time when what had been the abandoned hulk of the old Grove Theatre finally met its ultimate demise. (Since, however, none of the underlying documents for this notice are available on the web, we really can’t be sure of this – but at least this is better than nothing.) In 1980, Bushwick was plagued with a huge number of abandoned buildings that needed to be demolished, and this was probably one of them.

This raises what, for me, are several more important questions that have not been addressed in this thread:

  1. When exactly did the Grove close? If someone who has access to this information can state when the Grove dropped out of the annual movie theater directories, this wil be very helpful. I personally doubt that it made it through the 1950’s – and perhaps it may have even closed before then. (The Building Dept. report indicates a 1947 Unsafe Building violation – which may or may not be of some significance.)

  2. Once it closed, did the building hosting the Grove serve any other purpose? If it did, what was it converted into? Given the fact that this portion of Wilson Ave. was an active commercial area through at least the late 1960’s – far more active than that stretch of Irving Ave. that hosted the old Irving Theater during its “Robert Hall” post-cinematic life – one could not imagine a large vacant building lying in its midst during all this time.

  3. When exactly did this building become terminally abandoned? The Building Dept. file does indicate an application – or perhaps a violation – regarding sprinklers in 1970, but nothing after. So this is probably the decade when 474 Wilson became an abandoned hulk. But when did this occur and how?

Some food for thought that will hopefully address some of the gaps in the record.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 13, 2011 at 7:51 am

The Brooklyn Theatre Index provides some valuable information that sheds additional light about the old Grove, and also raises a few questions:

  1. It lists an opening date, as the Jefferson Casino Theatre, of 1912. This is four years after the date provided for the
    “1908” photo previously provided by Bway. So either the date of the photo is wrong – or the Index misstated the opening date.

  2. The Index next notes that the theater’s width was doubled in 1915, with the archectural work being performed by one Harry A. Sand. This confirms a statement provided earlier in the thread that made this exact point. It also confirms, at least in my judgment, that Bway’s early photo depicted a “pre-enlargement” version of this establishment.

  3. The Index also provides a 1951 closing date for the Grove. This makes sense, since “nabe” theaters like the Grove were being killed by the onset of television at the time. It also rekindles questions that I raised above about what use, if any, occupied this building between the theater’s closing and the building’s late 1970’s/early 1980’s demolition.

  4. Finally, the Index confirms that, at least during 1915, an adjacent Airdrome operated at 478-482 Hamburg Ave, with Harry Sand also credited as the architect. (Actually, it incorrectly references a Wilson Ave. address.) Thus, as previously speculated, the Airdrome was situated just east of the movie house. It also seemed to have had a very short life.

So, we seem to have identified a few more pieces to this puzzle.

vikrok
vikrok on February 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Hamburg Ave was changed to Wilson Ave (so it is the same street)

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on February 20, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I know that Hamburg Ave. was changed to Wilson Ave. during WWI. My point was that the Index referred to the newer name before the change had occuured. In any event, thanks for responding to this post; it’s been a long time since anyone looked at it.

jdclement
jdclement on November 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm

I believe this is the theater my grandfather operated in Brooklyn. I found this site by researching an old stock certificate for Alwin Amusement Company, April 1912, signed by my grandfather as President (Irving B. Clement.) I also have a non-cancelled envelope with a return address for Alwin Amusement Co., 474 Hamburg Ave., Brooklyn, N. Y. Family lore has it that my grandfather operated the “first open-air theater” in New York and is where he met my grandmother. The back of the stock seems to show a transfer on Jan 2, 1915 to Harry W. Roper, witnessed by Mary S. Roper. Your information about the change of the street name helped a lot. Can you tell me where I can read more about this type of theater? Frankly, the concept of sitting outside to watch a movie has never made sense to me. However, the other connection to the stock might be that my grandfather also said he filmed a cowboy movie on the sand dunes by the beach, in which you can see an unintended train passing by. That’s all I remember about his story. Anything you can fill in would be immensely entertaining! Oh, yes, the man standing to the right of the column is standing exactly like my grandfather he did in front of the Long Island pharmacy he later operated, but I can’t see the details of his face.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 28, 2013 at 8:29 pm

JD Clement, thanks for your terrific comment and I am glad that I helped you to locate the site.

I think the open air theaters made sense during the silent screen era, when sound was not an factor and air conditioning was just about non-existent. These ventures tended to be seasonal and generally only lasted for a few years. Hope this helps.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm

There’s a photo in the Photos section yet the overview image is the street view. I thought a photo automatically replaced the street view…?

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