Tuesday, October 21, 2008

287 East Houston Street: Then And Now

I came across the "then" photo on the nypl digital site and I recognized the facade of the Academy Theater. It was next to a bagel store I would frequent when I worked in a school on Essex Street. Sure enough I found the rest of the story
from cinematreasres
This theatre was in operation when, in November of 1921, a porter was instructed by the building's manager to open a skylight to cool the auditorium. A boy mistook a ray of sunlight hitting the screen for a flame and shouted, "Fire", causing a hundred people to rush for the exits.Contributed by Damien Farley
A three-story theatre building existed on the site as early as 1910. My research seems to indicate that this location had ceased to be a theatre by at least 1936.
As mentioned in the text, a motion picture theatre was definitely operational in 1921. However, records also show that the landlord, Academy Holding Corporation, purchased 291 East Houston in 1927 with the intention of combining it with their two adjoining buildings (283-287 E. Houston). They were proposing construction of a 1200 seat movie theatre on the 75x100 ft. plot. posted by Damien Farley on Jan 17, 2005 at 4:18pm Sheesh... the placelooks boarded and condemned in the "then" photo! Take a look at the sign hanging between the theater and the building on the left. It appears to read "Any information regarding these three buildings ... " then lists the building #'s and lot size ("75x100") followed by - presumably - a name and phone number to call with inquiries. Judging by the information above provided by Lost Memory, I assume that two of these parcels were eventually sold and became the 1-story building and adjacent driveway we see in the "now" photo. At minimum, it appears the facade was reduced in height and redone in plain brick, assuming the original theater facade included a high parapet wall. But note that it looks like a tree is growing through the roof of the building in the "now" photo! There must be some kind of alley-way behind the wall on the right edge of the property line which tells me that at least this portion of the old theater was completely rebuilt.The notice over the center entrance on the THS photo reads;For information regarding these 3 buildings 283-287-291 E. Houston Street- Inquire in Sweater Shop (next door). There are the remains of torn posters over the front doors advertising the Pelestine Theatre and the Avenue A Theatre. posted by Ed Solero on Nov 13, 2005 at 7:06pm
On my recent June 2006 visit to New York I took a look at the current building located at 287 East Houston Street and can confirm it is the Academy Theatre (now with a modified facade) and is in use as tax offices. Yes there is now a rooftop garden on top of the old theatre auditorium!

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