Monday, December 17, 2012

New Picture of the Regent Theater

This is a recent photo sent to me by a very kind person at the First Corinthian Baptist Church, formerly known as the B.S. Moss Regent or the RKO Regent Theater.  The First Corinthian Baptist Church has taken beautiful care of this building, a building that holds a few important places in New York and motion picture history.  The plaster work around the proscenium looks incredible, as does the detail on the boxes.  Thank you First Corinthian Baptist Church for realizing the beauty and value of this building and taking care of it.
The theater is about to turn 100 years old (February 2013) and the image above with the musicians on the stage is a full circle of the life of this space.  It was a failing movie house until Samuel .L. Rothafel took over management. Better known as "Roxy", he had been successful with turning the fortunes of unsuccessful theatres in other parts of the country. In the theater prior to the Regent, prior to moving to New York was the Alhambra in Minneapolis were he covered up the orchestra pit and moved the musicians on stage.  When the theater owner objected, Roxy's response was "well they're expensive, right? Might as well see them" or something to that effect. Roxy had a a set built surrounding the screen above the orchestra with balconies for singers. Roxy arranged music specific for the film being shown along with lighting effects. As the years went on, his shows and orchestras grew, eventually to the 110 musician Roxy Theatre Orchestra.
It is here that Roxy got his start in New York. It was the first theater to be built for movies (however it did not differ much from the vaudeville house typical of 1913 - meaning it had a stage) and it is one of the most beautiful, intact houses by Thomas Lamb.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

East 113th Street.

Harlem had / has many hearts, especially the Harlem east of Fifth avenue. East 113th was part of Italian Harlem once upon a time.

 In the late 19th century and into the early 20th century, an enormous wave of new Americans came to the shores of the Big Apple from southern Italy and Sicily.  A large contingent of this wave settled in East Harlem.  People from the same town would tend to settle on the same block, if not the same building, as accents from town to town in Italy are surprisingly different. There was also the idea of familiarity in addition to being able to communicate that lead to this phenomenon. This is a picture taken in July of 1931, looking south on First Avenue from 113th street. We are looking at the annual Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

 Detail from the same event. Behind the well dressed crowd is 349 - 351 East 113th street.

 The same event again looking at the same buildings on East 113th.

 This is 172- 156 East 113 between 2nd & 3rd looking west at the south side of the street. Myers Beverages must be 172. In the middle there are two single family wood frame houses with stoops and porches. The ever forward thinking City of New York passed a building ordinance in 1877 that forbade this type of construction. This was after enough disastrous fires in this town. Given this, these structures had to be built prior to 1877. The land was once owned by James Roosevelt and was sold off during the first half of the 19th century. There had been some speculative building going on as the Harlem River Railroad had opened it's horse car line on what we now call Park Avenue after 1835. This picture is from November 1937.

 114 -118 East 113 between Park and Lexington. While 116 got and 118 got brick fronts, 114 retained it's weathered wood look. The open land that was East Harlem began to develop in earnest post Civil War as more and more people migrated to the United States, particularly New York City. An island shaped like the rock I call home, a population can only move up as the lower part of the island began to swell population - wise. This photo dates from 1932.