Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Washington Theatre on Amsterdam Avenue and 149th Street.

This is the Washington Theater on Amsterdam Avenue between 149th and 150th streets. With a seating capacity of 1432, the Washington opened in August of 1910. It is considered to be the oldest surviving theater designed by, you guessed it, Thomas Lamb. The Washington still stands today as the New Covenant Temple and is, according to rumors, intact.

View from the stage.  Look at all those footlights.

View towards the stage, the house left boxes and the mural on the sound board above the proscenium. It appears that the fire curtain has been lowered.

This is looking at the house left boxes. Thomas Lamb was a genius and always used cantilevered balconies in his theaters. I do not recall one of his houses that had support columns under the balcony ruining the view. The boxes on orchestra level are separated from the orchestra section with a small partition. A real delineation between the box seats and the rest of the world. I know that Lamb's Capitol Theater (the largest theater in the world for a few years) and the Hamilton had boxes very similar to these. I know that I mentioned this before but Mr. lamb was never a licensed architect. Surprising for a guy who was a building inspector for the City of New York.

This is the theater now. In mid May of 2011 the church that owns the theater put it up for sale. There are no Landmark Restrictions and they are asking only 11.5 million dollars. If the rumors that it is intact are true, it should be saved.


  1. Wow, these theaters (at least on the inside) are amazing. I was just at the Beacon and thought of you. I'm going back in Feb and this time I'm taking pictures of the architecture and paintings etc. They can't throw me out! I'll be on my birfday!! The above photo of the outside is truly sad. When's Tours By Gary coming to Brooklyn? Have you seen how much Sheepshead Bay has changed?!

  2. I will be putting up something about another theater but it has a great deal to do with the Beacon and how the Beacon got that way.
    The Beacon underwent a many millions of dollars renovation a while ago so you so the house restored. I have fading memories of the Beacon as movie house and clearly remember looking down into the uncovered orchestra pit.
    As for Brooklyn, my second favorite borough, there is too much to cover. I will do the theaters of Brooklyn eventually. Thomas Lamb has (or had as some have been demolished) bunch out there. The firm Rapp & Rapp, who worked on the Beacon, designed the (long gone) Times Square and the (still sort of with us) Brooklyn Paramount(s), also designed The Kings on Flatbush Avenue and will be restored. It is is bad shape but it is salvageable. It is only one of 4 theaters Rapp & Rapp did for Loew's and it is the only one of the five "Loew's Wonder Theaters" to not be restored.
    As for the conversions to churches, as long as the group does not mess up the structure or design, it is fine with me. Reverend Ike owns the old Loew's 175th street in Washingfton Heights, one of the five Loew's Wonder Theaters, and he has kept it beautifully. There have been no alterations made, everything, down to the "Men's Room" signs are original. Bigger than the Beacon, it is the second largest theater in New York City and filled in for the Beacon while it was being renovated.
    Conversely, the Loew's Valencia, again one of the original Loew's Wonder Theaters, was saved by a church group. The house is an "atmospheric"; the ceiling has small lights simulating stars and clouds were projected on to the ceiling. The walls along the side came out a bit and the ceiling would curve down into recesses behind the pushed out walls. A beautiful effect, developed by an architect named John Eberson, who designed the Valencia. The church group covered a few nude statues, I am ok with that but they hung a chandelier from the "sky", ruining the effect.
    As for Sheepshead Bay and Coney Island, I always get a twinge of "damn - something else is gone" every time I am out there.
    Did you know the Avalon on Kings Highway had a stage? I would love to get in there and go up above the drop ceiling of that Rite-Aid and see what is left of the Avalon. I would even wager that there is back stage area left and just sort of sealed up. Very common when a theater is converted to a retail space, it is just cheaper to leave something than it would be to remove it.
    Who are you going to see at the Beacon on your birthday?