Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Jefferson Theater

Jefferson Theater
the first photo is a segment of a larger one from shorpy
from cinema treasures
RKO Jefferson Theatre
214 E. 14th Street
Status: Closed/Demolished
Screens: Single Screen
Seats: 1916
Architect: George Keister, Thomas W. Lamb
The old Jefferson Theatre opened in 1913 as a B.F. Keith's vaudeville theater in what is now known as the edge of the East Village. Later the RKO Jefferson, this theater was located at 214 E. 14th Street near Third Avenue. The entrance was a narrow space between two tenement houses with the bulk of the theatre (auditorium) located in 13th Street. The Jefferson operated at least into the 1970's and was demolished in 2000. Today, the site is filled with bricks and debris from the demolition and the old Jefferson as passed on.
Also known as B.F. Keith's Jefferson Theatre
Last owner was a relative of the owner of the Wetson hamburger chain. He was almost singlehandedly trying to restore it with only one helper. A visit to the upstairs proved he was wasting his time as vandals had removed all the plumbing by that time & the inside of the theater was in shambles. He quickly found this out and gave up on this vanity project
posted by WilliamMcQuade on Mar 20, 2002 at 8:39am
The East 13th Street portion (or rear of this theatre's building) can be seen in Taxi Driver. The action with Robert De Niro, Jodie Foster and Harvey Kietel all take place around the corner from The Jefferson.
posted by Greenpoint on Feb 8, 2004 at 3:38pm
The Jefferson was another Adam design by Thomas W. Lamb, and was built by B.S. Moss and Sol Brill. It first opened on January 25, 1913 with Keith's vaudeville. During the heyday of vaudeville, the Jefferson was one of the top NYC houses. New acts that registered well with the audience were assured of getting a booking at the Palace on Broadway, which was the ultimate reward for an entertainer in those days. Through its Keith's affiliation, the Jefferson became an RKO movie theatre, but retained vaudeville on the programs until well into the 1930s.
posted by Warren G. Harris on Mar 22, 2004 at 1:32pm
George Keister was the Jefferson's architect. Thomas Lamb did only some minor alterations in the 1930s. The Jefferson was built by the Irvington Construction Company, and took nine months to complete. The original seating plan showed 1,885 seats-- 1,124 in the orchestra, 689 in the balcony, and 72 in boxes...George Keister's other NYC theatres included the Astor, Belasco, George M. Cohan's, Selwyn, Chaloner (later Town), and both versions of the Earl Carroll.
posted by Warren G. Harris on Mar 27, 2004 at 7:47am
The narration above says it was closed by the early 60's but I seem to recall when going to Luchows in the seventies triple kung fu bills playing? Maybe an independant took over when RKO gave it up?
Yes, it was operated by "indies" after RKO left. It would be very difficult to track the exact closing as a movie house because the operators never advertised in the newspapers or sought listings in magazines like New York. When I last had a chance to visit the dingy interior in 1981, the Jefferson was closed and awaiting re-development as a disco/rock palace, but that never happened.

5 comments:

hakpaksak said...

I used to go to the Jefferson in the '50s for double-bills of feature films with a "short" before, not invariably the Three Stooges, whose desperate raucousness I did not come to appreciate until later in like. The Jefferson was not far from the Labor Temple, another 14th St. marker of my early life, which in those years housed the uptown branch of the "Edgies." The Labor Temple itself is worth portraying on the KV site, i.e. the near-forgotten history of Protestant labor activism on the LES. Stephen Lewis (Leibowitz) (Seward Park '63)

Scott Taylor said...

Semone Grossman owned the building in 1980, Errol Weston, Arthur Weinstein and myself (Scotty Taylor) were going to transform the theater into a club unfortunately, Grossman back out of the deal and Errol moved on.
Arthur and myself managed to rent the second floor above the marquee with the huge widows and moved in with his wife and 3 year old daughter we then turned it into a after hours club called "The Jefferson" on new years 1981. We were closed down 5 months later by the FBI for paying off NYPD officers

Anonymous said...

The Jefferson in its last days as a movie house provided a venue for NYC's sex maniacs.
Sexual acts took place in the seats and bathrooms. The area behind the screen was a constant orgy.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know who the head bust in the theatre was of? Joe Jefferson perhaps? One of the architects or owners? I remember seeing it, laying on a pile of rubbish when they tore the building down.

Frank Jump said...

Here is a link to a fading ad for the Jefferson Theatre that used to be on Seventh Avenue.