Whitney Theatre

67-05 Fresh Pond Road,
Ridgewood, NY 11385

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Under the Fresh Pond Road El, 1940s

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Whitney Theatre was one of the many theatres built in the Ridgewood section of Queens, and it opened in 1912. It operated until at least 1926.

It was located next to the Fresh Pond Road elevated station on the Myrtle El.

Contributed by Bway Chris

Recent comments (view all 74 comments)

tkmonaghan
tkmonaghan on April 5, 2014 at 10:35 pm

You’re very welcome, John.

Bway, I believe I may have a couple of glass plate negatives of the El being built around Forest Ave Station, too, and if I recall correctly, a large billboard in the background of one of them is advertising the new Mathews Model Flats for rent for $15 a month. I will check and post again if I can locate it.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 6, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Just read through this thread, and the earlier questions about the current building on site having a theatrical air about it. Couldn’t find if anyone already mentioned this, but, knowing that prior to the bank, the occupant was a restaurant, I wonder if this may have been one of the many Childs Restaurant, locations. That early national chain was known for the architectural detail of its buildings. From images of other Childs locations that I’ve seen (including the remains of 2 Coney Island locations), this structure very much has the same look. And the timing would be right, if the Whitney lasted into the 1920’s, since that’s about when the chain started to peak in popularity.

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on April 8, 2014 at 5:15 pm

I’m not sure what was located at this address right after the Whitney was demolished, but the theatre building was still standing in early 1930 according to an article in the NY Daily Star published on February 15, 1930.

Old Whitney Theater in Ridgewood To Be Replaced by Stores.

“The Whitney Theater, Fresh Pond Road and Sixty-Seventh avenue (Cornelia street), Ridgewood, long an eyesore to that community, is to be razed, it was learned today. For more than two years the old building has been boarded up. In the rear, on Sixty-second street, adjoining the back platform of the Myrtle avenue "L” line, is a lot which is used as a dumping-ground for rubbish. Old residents of Ridgewood say the Whitney was built twenty years ago when that section was sparsely settled. Both sides of Fresh Pond road from Myrtle avenue to Metropolitan avenue were lined with trees.

For some time a stock company gave performances in the theater and later motion pictures and vaudeville were introduced. With the population increasing, more motion picture theaters were established in Ridegwood. Practically all of the new residents at that time were former Brooklynites who made it a point to board an “L” train and go down to their former neighborhoods when they wanted a little relaxation.

For a time the Whitney Theater prospered, but there was keen competition. The theater changed hands several times and it was reported that several large theatrical interests were negotiating to acquire the building. About two years ago the last motion picture performance was held in the building. The place was closed and boarded up. On a number of occasions the doors in the rear were opened late at night and upon investigation policemen found tramps and other undesirables had taken refuge in the place.

There have been several fires in the building of late, started by mischievous boys who gained entrance to the building. Some weeks ago Ridgewood civic organizations complained of the building as an eyesore. Police of the Glendale station communicated with the agent for the building several days ago when a billboard, loosened by the wind from its fastenings on the facade of the building, fell to the street.

Yesterday a group of men were making an examination of the building, and one of them, questioned by a policeman, told him the building is to be torn down and that stores are to be erected on the site. A number of merchants in the vicinity also stated that the old theater building is coming down".

Even though the 1930 article states that “the Whitney was built twenty years ago” which would give a build year of 1910, the Whitney was actually built in 1912.

tkmonaghan
tkmonaghan on April 8, 2014 at 10:41 pm

Ed,

I’m not sure when it opened for business exactly, but there was a restaurant called Mother’s that was there, a picture of which I just uploaded under the photos tab on the top of this page. The newsstand in the photo would later become a 24-hour grocery store called Mini Mart, which was a popular stop for sandwiches and beer during my youth growing up in the RGMV area. The photo I uploaded was taken sometime during the 1940s, IIRC, and is from the original negative that I picked up at an auction a while back.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 9, 2014 at 9:16 am

LM, thanks so much for the reprint of a very interesting article. It confirmed a point I have made in other contexts about Ridgewood being very much a Brooklyn generated community that had, at least in those days, far more in common with its neighbor to the west than to much of its own borough. In this sense, the significance of the old Myrtle Ave. El in providing a link to the old community cannot be overstated. One can easily envision huge numbers of old Ridgewoodites taking the El to visit Fulton Street’s thriving entertainment and commercial district in Downtown Brooklyn. Even when I worked in Bushwick during the 1970’s and the El no longer extended beyond Broadway, people in Ridgewood would regret the lack of this very efficient link to downtown Brooklyn.

Interestingly enough, it was this Brooklyn mindset – as well as the clear logistical benefits – that encouraged the people of Ridgewood and Gelndale a little over one hundred years ago to have their communities placed within the Brooklyn postal zones. This, in turn, caused many of Ridgewood’s old movie houses to be featured in the Brooklyn section of the Movie Clocks for many years to come. The old Ridgewood Theatre was, in fact, still considered to be a “Brooklyn” theater in the newspapers up until its unfortunate demise.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 10, 2014 at 4:15 am

Hi tkmonaghan… Mother’s was actually in the corner building, sharing the ground floor with that newstand, not in the “theater-like” building that I think may have housed a Child’s. In your photo, you can see a portion of that building on the right, with a hat shop occupying one of the storefronts. Not sure if Child’s typically shared its footprint with other merchants, so your photo certainly does call into question whether my hunch is correct.

Bway
Bway on April 10, 2014 at 9:03 am

The exterior of the current store building does very much have the distinctive “Childs Restaurant” facade, and is definitely 1930’s in design. It was Hamburg Savings Bank when I was a kid, and I think it became a Greenpoint Savings Bank at some point. The old article was very interesting. it was only about 20 years old when torn down. The mention of “Tramps and Undesirables” in the building was hysterical!! BTW, Mini Mart is still in the building at the corner, if you look at the street view. It was always Mini Mart in my time. Interestingly the attractive building next to the “Childs” building in the photo Themonagan posted recently was also torn down at some point, replaced with a one story building Mini Mart is in.

johndereszewski
johndereszewski on April 10, 2014 at 9:29 am

While the reason for the Whitney’s early demise – competition from the Brooklyn theaters – that LM’s article noted and that I expanded upon in my previous comment is an attractive and certainly a reasonable one, there is an alternate possibility. As noted in a much earlier comment, the imminent construction of the Oasis Theatre in the immediate vicinity – which I believe occurred in 1927 -could have easily caused the Whitney’s owners to bow out at that time. Besides being a spanking new building, the Oasis would clearly have been better positioned to adapt to the sound era.

Going back to the first reason, my earlier comment neglected to describe the allure that the (Brooklyn) Broadway theater district would have had to the new residents of Ridgewood. This was, after all, where many of them lived and enjoyed life before making the move into Queens.

tkmonaghan
tkmonaghan on April 10, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Great comments and information everyone! Such knowledge and details are what make this site as enjoyably informative as it is.

I remember going to the Oasis as a kid, which was situated just a half-mile or so up Fresh Pond Road going towards Metropolitan Avenue. You woukld think the Whitney would be better situated to serve moviegoers, as it was right at the heart of the public transportation system, even as far back as the teens, while the Oasis was less accessible in that regard, but the Oasis was a truly majestic theatre, even after its prime. I’d go to the movies there and follow up with a beautiful sit-down dinner at the Chinese restaurant across the street, a cavernous place called Fresh Pond Inn, if I recall correctly.

tkmonaghan
tkmonaghan on April 10, 2014 at 8:37 pm

As a side note, with regard to the “Childs” type building, which later became a bank—my mother was a secretary for the Cemetery Workers Union Local 365, which was located above the bank, and I used to work part-time there during the summer filing papers in the office during the late afternoon. The building used to house a couple of other offices up on the upstairs level, too, and afforded a nice view of Fresh Pond Road and the buses swinging onto Fresh Pond Road from 67th Avenue.

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