Ridgewood Casino Theatre

383 Knickerbocker Avenue,
Bushwick,
Brooklyn, NY 11237

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Ridgewood Casino Theatre

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Listed in the American Motion Picture Directory 1914-1915 edition. This was a small silent movie theater located on Knickerbocker Avenue and Stanhope Street. It operated from 1909 to 1915.

Contributed by CJDV & Lost Memory

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on January 14, 2008 at 4:50 pm

I visited 381-383 Knickerbocker Avenue yesterday. The two buildings are probably over 100 years old – certainly constructed before the “early teens” – and seem to have been built as three story commencial/residences, with the first floor occupied – as they are now – by retail stores. The corner building does contain rather elaborate brickwork, implying that this may have been more an a normal building. However, this was the era of elaborate brickwork.

Since capacity is only specified at 200, this must have been a tiny theater that was probably only situated on the first floor. If both 381 and 383 hosted the theater, this could work. But it would take a great deal of imagination to visualize a movie house here. This is a site in need of additional research. Any ideas?

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 24, 2008 at 3:43 am

I just finished checking the Dept. of Building’s web-site data base for 383 Knickerbocker Ave. and the results are interesting and suggestive. The only documented Certificate of Occupancy for this building was issued in 1932 and essentially legalized the set-up – 1st floor store, two apartments on each of the two higher floors – that currently exists here. However, there are numerous other “actions” – mostly alterations – that are listed here – though not explained – that go back to 1915. There is also absolutely no indication that any building was demolished on this site during the 1915 – 1932 period. And, as I noted in my previous post, the ornate architecture of 383 clearly reflects a style that was popular at around the turn of the last century but that would have been out of place for a building constructed in the 1910’s.

What this, at least to me, strongly suggests, is that the building that housed the tiny – 250 capacity – Ridgewood Casino is the one that – although now modified to the point of non-recognotion – still stands today. For this reason, it may make sense to remove the “demolished” designation from the introduction.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on August 1, 2008 at 3:08 am

After reading several comments from other pages, I came up with another reason to conclude that the old movie site still exists. Specifically, until the mid 1910’s, building codes covering movie houses were nearly nonexistent. Even after their enactment, the codes were rarely enforced. This means that a 200 capacity “theater” could very well haved been jammed into this small storefront. While this would have been a notorious firetrap and hardly a paragon of comfort, it could have existed here, at least for a few years. In time, more aggressive code enforcement as well as the creation of superior competitors would cause the Casino’s demise; but the old building is still probably there.

Given the interest that other old theaters have generated – especially in Bushwick and Ridgewood – I am surprised by the lack of interest demonstrated here. We may have a real find just under our noses, and no one appears to care. Any ideas?

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on September 28, 2008 at 1:50 pm

Still one more point on this item. While no Building Dept. action involved 383 Knickerbocker prior to 1915, a number of such actions affected other Knickerbocker Ave. buildings on that block as early as 1900. Since the the entire blockfront was almost certainly constructed at the same time, it seems pretty clear that the building that hosted the Ridgewood Casino was the same building that stands today.

Thus, unless compelling arguments to the contrary can be presented, I believe the theater should be listed as closed but not demolished. I would really love to hear some comments on this item – even those that demonstrate that I don’t know what I am talking about. Please respond.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on October 12, 2008 at 10:14 am

The key point here, at least for me, is that all of the buildings on the block-front containing 383 Knickerbocker were almost certainly constructed at least a decade prior to the date on which the Ridgewood Casino appeared in the records. Unless a clearly erroneous address was provided at that time, one that would have placed the theater on an entirely different block – certainly a possibility – it is difficult not to conclude that the building that hosted this tiny theater still exists. (Slight discrepancies like the 381/383 Knickerbocker that exists here have cropped up many, many times in these pages.)

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on October 13, 2008 at 2:33 pm

Well, an on-site visit has undercut one of my stronger arguments regarding the Casino’s current site. Specifically, the two buildings with 1900 era building permits were NOT part of the same development. Instead, they are wood frame buildings that definetely were constructed before their masonry built neighbors. (This is a problem that occurs when you rely too much on the internet for research.)

However, it still seems pretty clear to me that the brick buildings were still constructed before the Ridgewood Casino became history.

So, this is still a pretty close question.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on October 13, 2008 at 3:08 pm

No, the building is brick, but it conforms to the construction designs that dominated the first decade of the last century.

This is why the question is close.

Bway
Bway on April 20, 2009 at 7:09 am

John, is this the corner where you say the Casino may have been? I don’t feel it could have been any of the other corners:
View link

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 24, 2009 at 11:42 am

Bway, the theater was situated at the NW corner of Knickerbocker and Stanhope, where the “Tip Top” and the “Tattoo” stores currently occupy the site. The theater might also have been located in the adjacent lot, where the Payless shoe store is currently situated.

Since the corner building (given its architectural qualities) seems to have been constructed prior to the mid 1910’s – the time when the Ridgewood Casino went out of business – I have opted for the corner building as being the site for what was a tiny and rather primitive nickelodeon-type movie house. But it is possible that the old theater was demolished and replaced by the current occupents of this site sometime in the 1910’s. In short, this has the makings of an interesting detective story, something hopefully more productive than the Ridgewood Follies!

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on December 31, 2010 at 7:20 am

The recently published Brooklyn Theatre Index contains some additional information regarding this long gone theater.

First, it lists a specific cinematic lifespan of 1909 to 1915 and cites a Morris Goodman as the theater’s proprietor.

Second, and of pertinence to the building’s status, it notes that, in early 1916, just after it closed as a theater, the building was altered to accommodate a store and two family dwellings. This layout is very similar to that of the building currently occupying this site. While there is some confusion with the exact street address – not an unusual occurance – the location of the building seems pretty clear. This provides a strong, if hardly conclusive, argument that this small theater was situated in a building that was not demolished but still exists. Let the debate go on!

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