Past life as a theater still evident in Brooklyn drugstore

posted by CSWalczak on March 10, 2010 at 10:51 am

BROOKLYN, NY — So often when a former theater is converted to retail, all traces of its past life are covered up or are obliterated. But an exception is what used to be the Meserole Theater in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn. A recent photo essay in the Huffington Post takes the reader on a tour of the drugstore that occupies what was the Meserole and pictures show its history and the theatrical details that remain.

Though it looks small from the front, the theater was actually quite large, accommodating 2,000 people on ground level and balcony seating. Here, a bird’s eye view from above shows its full size – the main entrance is beside the white truck in the upper right corner, which leads to the theater building on Lorimer.

The theater was named after the Meserole family, who were among the first settlers in the area. In fact, the original farmhouse may have been torn down to accommodate the theater, which is built on former Meserole land – Forgotten-NY speculates that this may explain the inclusion of cattle skulls in the exterior design work.

The full story is here in the Huffington Post.

Theaters in this post

Comments (16)

DonSolosan on March 10, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Very interesting in light of the fight over the Golden Gate in Los Angeles. CVS essentially wants to build a box within the building that will house the store (and presumably the historic elements of the building will be allowed to decay, unseen). Why not embrace the history and design of the building?

AdoraKiaOra on March 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm

What an absolutely charming piece.

RayHarp on March 10, 2010 at 8:17 pm

This is a great story! It’s both instructive and inspirational.

I am just starting to get a similar effort going to try to save

and restore the CANARSIE THEATER, which you can also see listed in

CINEMA TREASURES. Please go to and read that article; there are many

comments listed there about that sister Brooklyn theater.

johndereszewski on March 10, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Great piece regarding the movie house where I had my first date.

There is one correction in the attachment that should be noted. The Mrserole was never known as the Garden Theatre. That movie house was located across the street and just down the block. Due to, in large measure, the competition provided by the Meserole, the Garden did not survive the silent era, and was converted into a catering hall and bar. It is now an Indian Restaurant.

DonSolosan on March 11, 2010 at 1:11 am

Does anyone know of other theaters that have been adaptively reused like this, with the original decorative elements of the theater visible to the public? I can think of a few LA examples, but would like a long list to take to the next city meeting. Thanks.

CSWalczak on March 11, 2010 at 2:23 am

I can think of two that became bookstores. 1) the Runnymede in Toronto which became a Chapters Bookstore which I think is still operating as such; picture here: View link and 2) The Alabama in Houston which was a BookStop until this past September, picture here: View link

I have not been able to locate any interior pictures, but the demolished Southtown in Chicago hung on as a department store; there was a picture in David Naylor’s book, “American Picture Palaces,” I think. Also in Chicago, the Calo is now a secondhand store. It’s hardly an elegant example, actually it is rather shabby, but you cannot miss the fact that it was a theater when you are in there.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on March 11, 2010 at 12:30 pm

The Plaza Theatre in Memphis TN and the Varsity Theatre in Palo Alto CA were both converted to bookstores. From the descriptions and comments, it sounds like some of the theatre detail remains, but I haven’t been to either one since the conversions.

The most famous theatre-to-bookstore conversion may be El Ateneo in Buenos Aires, Argentina , which looks like it should be spectacular.

DonSolosan on March 11, 2010 at 2:31 pm

These are awesome, guys, thanks! And keep ‘em coming if anyone knows of more!

TLSLOEWS on March 16, 2010 at 12:52 pm

The Belle Meade Theatre in Nashville,Tennessee is a bookstore now but still has the lobby,signboards,and vertical sign in place,the auditorium was torn down a few years ago.

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nat3107 on May 24, 2023 at 8:37 am

Wow, what a fascinating glimpse into the past there! It’s refreshing to hear about a case where a former theater is transformed into a retail space while still preserving its rich history. The Meserole Theater in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn seems to have undergone a unique metamorphosis, with the drugstore that now occupies its space embracing and showcasing the theatrical details that once made the theater come alive. I recollect it from my custom writing career.

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