Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Theatre Architect Thomas Lamb Brooklyn 2013

One of the foremost theatre architects, Thomas Lamb in designing large, lavishly ornate theatres was influential in establishing the concept of the movie palace.

For the Mitchel H. Mark Realty Corporation, he designed the Brooklyn Strand Theatre at 647 Fulton Street (Lamb Job Book #1390).

The New York Clipper, September 3, 1919:
“The design throughout the new theatre is Pompeian block, gold, bronze  and green are the predominating colors. The marble lobby and stairway were banked with roses, cut flowers and potted plants Friday night, the gifts of the management’s many friends.”

On October 5, 2013, the BRIC Arts Media House became the latest addition to the burgeoning Downtown Brooklyn Cultural District. Based in the remains of the former Strand Theatre, BRIC is a “multidisciplinary arts and media non-profit dedicated to presenting visual, performing, and media arts programs.”

The publicity surrounding its opening often included a fabricated history of the Strand describing it as a former variety house where Charlie Chaplin and Harry Houdini once performed.  Why this was necessary is unclear.

Without naming the architect, newspaper articles were dismissive of the building's original design.

Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2012:
"'If this was a historically important piece of architecture, we would have treated it that way. But it is not,' says architect Thomas Leeser [BRIC Media House]."

The Strand deserves recognition as a movie palace designed by one of the foremost theatre architects. It does not need a fabricated past to celebrate its history..

Lamb was also responsible for Fox Savoy opening September 1, 1926 at 1515 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Eagle, September 3, 1926:
"...its appointments place on it the list of the most attractive of Brooklyn show houses."

After closing in 1964, the theatre became the Charity Baptist Church. Without funds for needed repairs, the church sold the building, in 2012, to Realty Within Reach for the surprisingly low figure of  $575,000.

Brownstoner, November 21,2013:
A 10-story apartment building with a 114 units, a synagogue, retail on the ground floor, and underground parking for 30 cars is going to replace the 1926 Neo-Classical Fox Savoy Theater in Crown Heights. 

Historian Montrose Morris expressing her anger:
"I’m angry for a couple of reasons. First of all, this building should be saved and landmarked. It is a cultural icon of a movie age of old, a big part of the history of Crown Heights, the history of Fox and movie theaters in Brooklyn and America, and an important part of Thomas Lamb’s shrinking number of contributions to architecture. America has been shaped by the movies in myriad ways, and large movie houses like this are a part of that legacy."

Photographs of the  BRIC Arts Media House and Savoy Theatre, copyright Betty Sword, all rights reserved.

Cezar Del Valle is the author of the Brooklyn Theatre Index, chosen 2010 Best Book of the year by the Theatre Historical Society.

He is available for theatre talks and walks in 2014.

Original content © Cezar Del Valle and Betty Sword (photographs) 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cezar Del Valle, Betty Sword (photographs)  and/or  Theatre Talks with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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