Grove Theater

474 Wilson Avenue,
Brooklyn, NY 11221

Unfavorite No one has favorited this theater yet

Showing 22 comments

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…?

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.

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 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.

vikrok on February 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

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

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.

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.

Bway on April 20, 2009 at 7:03 am

Does anyone know when the Grove was torn down?

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 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, 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 on October 13, 2008 at 1:37 pm

The depth of the old Grove was about 100 feet (there are now 5 lots with new homes cut out of the side that faces Jefferson, each about 20 feet wide).
The Wyckoff’s depth is 103 feet, so the depth was about the same. I don’t know if the Grove went from Jefferson to Hancock (sorry I said Cornelia before, I meant Hancock). But even if it only went 100 feet, it still would be about 100 X 100, which is about what the Wyckoff is give or take.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on October 13, 2008 at 9:53 am

Listed in the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915 edition as the Jefferson Casino, 474 Hamburg Avenue.

Bway on October 13, 2008 at 8:42 am

Yes, in 1908, this would have been the Jefferson Casino. That should probably be added to the aka names at the top of this page. At the time of this photo, remember this was called “Hamburg Ave”, so it wouldn’t have been called the Wilson Theater until some time after the street was changed to Wilson Ave.

As for the size of the building, it took up the whole block between Cornelia and Jefferson St, and is about as wide as any of these similar theaters, such as the Wyckoff Theater, etc.

johndereszewski on October 11, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Thanks for the compliment, Lost Memory, but without sounding like a broken record, I hope you would take a glance at the posts that I have entered on the Ridgewood Casino page. I think I am on to something regarding this long forgotten theater, and I would be fascinated to hear your assessment of my findings.

Hope to hear from you soon.

johndereszewski on October 11, 2008 at 12:36 pm

A previous post to this page stated that 474 Hamburg Ave. initially hosted a theater called the Jefferson Casino. So that probably explains the name appearing on the facade in the picture.

In addition, the theater in the 1908 photo does not at all appear to be large enough to accommodate a 600 person capacity. For this reason, the 1926 alteration that Lost Memory noted above probably involved a pretty significant reconstruction and expansion of what became the Grove. It would be great if anyone can come up with a post 1928 picture.

In this case, the – at least short term – fate of the Grove was different than that experienced by small pre-code theaters like the Ridgewood Casino, that closed and then saw their buildings converted into other commercial uses.

Bway on October 9, 2008 at 5:41 pm

A photo of the Grove Theater in 1908 can be seen here:

View link

In 1908, Wilson Ave was still called “Hamburg Ave”. It was changed to “Wilson Ave” after WWI, after Woodrow Wilson. At the time, it was felt that “Hamburg Ave” was to “German” sounding, so the name was changed.

I would assume that the theater was called something else other than “Wilson Theater” or “Rige” theater at the time of this photo, which is 1908. It was too early to be called “Wilson Theater” because Wilson Ave was still called Hamburg Ave at the time of this photo. Perhaps it was the Rige theater before Wilson? I wonder if “Rige” was someone’s name, or was it perhaps “Ridge” because this was considered part of Ridgewood at the time?

Either way, it’s an interesting photo.

Bway on June 6, 2006 at 8:21 am

Nothing but new homes are in the location of the new Theater’s corner:

Click here for link to photo

cjdv on October 3, 2004 at 10:24 am

Wilson Street was originally Hamburg Avenue before World War I. At 474 Hamburg (later Wilson) was the Jefferson Casino Theatre. It is listed in Trow’s Business Directory for 1912 and also the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915. Since this theatre opened prior to the 1913 changes in the city ordinances, its capacity was most likely less than 299 seats. However once these changes took place many of the early movie houses increased their capacity. For example, both the Nostrand and Marathon theatres (in Brooklyn) became 600 seat houses after October 1913. This could also be true for the Jefferson.
In 1920, the Decatur, not the one on Broadway but the one at 610-12 Wilson, changed its name to the Woodrow Wilson Theatre. It is also possible that the Jefferson did the same becoming the Wilson Theatre.

wdhvnjhn on October 2, 2004 at 1:22 pm

open air Grove was a concrete square with permanent movie seats and a fence in front, which was adjacent to the regular theater
It was in reality neither a seperate “building” nor a parking lot

BushwickJAK on October 1, 2004 at 8:18 pm

Remember the Grove Theater quite fondly. Remember hurrying on Saturday mornings to get all chores done so we could get to the Grove when it opened to see 27 cartoons, the “RACE” where you could win a prize and then 2 Feature Films for the same price you can get a gum ball in a machine now-a-days. I think parents at the time thought it to be a great “baby sitter” for the day as we spent many hours with our eyes glued to the screen. Really miss those times and think about what going to a movie today costs and half the time the film isn’t worth the money. What happened to those cartoons and news clips before the main feature instead of ads that no one cares for? Oh to reminisce and think about what this generation is missing out on.

wdhvnjhn on September 27, 2004 at 8:29 pm

they leave out mention of the open air theater,which though closed in late 30s or early 40s was still there

Bway on September 22, 2004 at 3:32 pm

I drove by the Grove theater site today, and the theater has been demolished, replaced with one and two family homes facing Jefferson and the next block to the east, which look to have been built in the last 5 years.