architecture

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I recently discovered the wonderful site Cinema Treasures. Celebrating not films but the places showing them, Cinema Treasures digs, documents and shares all the information they can find about classic movie theaters across America.

Plugging my zip code into their search feature, I was surprised to find this gem right near my subway stop:

picture from Cinema Treasures

Unfortunately this theater is past tense – long since demolished, here’s what currently occupies the space:

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 8.55.19 PM

An empty lot! A fenced-in, weed-choked, garbage-filled empty lot. While any hint of green space in the neighborhood is appreciated, it’s depressing this wonderful building was razed with nothing replacing it in the 10+ years since its destruction. At best one hopes it became such a fire hazard it had to be torn down with no plans for the space, instead of imagining some developer sitting on this plot greedily anticipating the day the neighborhood perks up to the point they can build more glass fishbowls to shove upper-class Manhattan expats into (see: Williamsburg).

But there is yet hope! To my utter surprise and delight, all five of the original Lowe’s ‘Wonder Theaters‘ still stand! The Wonder Theaters were flagship Lowe’s outposts built outside main Manhattan, with the specific idea of bringing the glamour and luxury of city moviegoing to the outer boros.

courtesy of Wikipedia
(the United Palace Theater in Washington Heights)

courtesy of Wikipedia
(the Valencia Theater in Queens)

Two live on as churches – the United Palace Theater is now Christ Community United Church, who also use the space to host concerts and events for the surrounding community. The Valencia is more exclusively Tabernacle of Prayer church, but they’ve done an amazing job preserving the beautiful, byzantine interior (really, click on and check out the photos – it’s absolutely stunning).

courtesy of Wikipedia (the Kings Theater in Brooklyn)

The Kings Theater in Brooklyn got a recent reprieve – the building is currently under construction to restore it to its former glory (you can see its current deteriorated condition here).

courtesy of Wikipedia
(the Paradise Theater in the Bronx)

courtesy of Wikipedia
(Jersey Lowe’s in Journal Square)

Bronx’s Paradise theater still shows movies and hosts concerts and other arts-related events, as does Jersey City’s Lowe’s Theater. The Jersey Lowe’s can even be rented out for weddings (one of the rental perks being you and your betrothed’s names on the marquee. Cute).

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Over at Shorpy’s are pages and pages of gorgous, high-resolution photos from the past. Normally I just admire them for their ridiculous amount of detail, but when I saw this one I realized I knew that place! I never know that place! Whenever they show a picture of Olde Tymie Newe Yorke the ‘before’ is always some guy with a donkey-drawn cart standing in a dirt rut surrounded by field, and the ‘after’ is the Disney store in Times Square. What?! But this time, not only did the building look the same, and the surrounding buildings, but it’s something I pass all the time in present day!

14th St. & 6th Ave.

And that little building grew up to be…a Starbucks and an Urban Outfitters! The El line is long gone and the building the guy’s scrubbing is some weird pizza shop (sorry, blue and white is a color scheme for Greek food, not pizza), but otherwise it’s the same! Fun Fact: the subway there still has the old IRT signs going down the stairs.


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I highly recommend clicking on the high-resolution image over at Shorpy’s; you can see two ladies staring out a window , a window-washer rigged with just a rope tied around his waist, a street urchin who looks like he snuck on the El, and a bowler-hatted fellow reading the paper nearby.

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In what may be a first, we are about a month away from that wondrous holiday known as Halloween and I do not know what my costume is. Oh, ideas have been bandied about, but usually at least 2 months before go time I’m set with an idea and have already begun sketches and practicality assessments.

It looks like I may have to go with my perpetual fall-back idea: the Chrysler Building. I’ve never actually been it because I usually come up with an idea that knocks it out of the running early on. It would also fit with my general enjoyment of costumes involving ridiculous headdresses and architecture. Here’s a picture of the architect himself, William VanAllen, wearing his own interpretation of the building he designed:

If he looks less than chuffed it may be because he was never paid for the design.

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