Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Roosevelt Theater On Houston Street

Above the Roosevelt/National Theaterfrom NYPL Digital Gallery, The New York Public Library
history from cinema treasures
National Theatre & Roosevelt Theatre
111 - 117 E. Houston Street
Seats: 2863
Architect: Thomas W. Lamb
Built as a twin 'piggy-back' theatre , it was planned by Louis Minsky to be called the Unique Theatre and be used for burlesque. However when built (to the designs of noted theatre architect Thomas W. Lamb) it opened on 6th May 1913 as the National Theatre (on the lower level seating 1,900) which was leased to Thomasefsky & Adler for use as a Yiddish theatre. The upper theatre had a seating capacity of 963 and was named the Crown Theatre.
Programming varied from Yiddish stage shows to burlesque and it ran Russian films from 1936 to 1939 when the Crown Theatre was re-named Roosevelt Theatre.
The building was closed in 1941 and was later reopened as two movie theatres known as the National Theatre (seating 1,800) and Roosevelt Theatre (seating 963). These closed in 1951 and lay empty until they were demolished in 1959 for a parking lot.
The 1941 edition of Film Daily Yearbook lists this theatre as the Roosevelt Theatre, Houston Street. The seating capacity given is for 400 and it is listed as 'Closed'
A 1934 NY Times article mentions the Roosevelt Little as another name for the National Theatre (legit). The National was on the SW corner of Houston and Christie which maps now as 273 Bowery, 10002,
The site had been home to a household supply manufacturer from 1871-1911. I believe the theatre was built by Louis Minsky and Max Steuer, open by May 1913, and was known originally as the National (along with the National Winter Garden). In March 1935, it became the combination house known at the New Roosevelt Theatre. Simply the Roosevelt by September 1936, it exhibited Ukrainian, Soviet, Yiddish, and Chinese movies in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The National Winter Garden, located on the sixth floor, seated 299 and was known as the Rooftop Theatre from at least the mid-1940s through the building's closing. The theatre proper was known as the Downtown National from at least 1941-1951.
The theatre was closed when it was purchased by the Transit Authority in 1958.
I believe the lot on which it existed sat empty until the recent construction of the first building in the large Avalon Chrystie Place mixed-use development currently underway on both sides of East Houston. The particular building on the site, the foundation of which had to be built around 4 subway lines underground, will include a new community center and gym jointly operated by the Chinatown YMCA and University Settlement, a 60,000-sq.-ft. Whole Foods supermarket — the chain’s largest in Manhattan — and 361 rental apartments, 80 percent of which will be market rate and 20 percent for low-income tenants.

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