This is the seldom-seen interior of the Henderson Building, which Thor Equities has announced plans to demolish and replace with a one-story shopping mall. Is this building “structurally questionable and potentially dangerous” as Thor’s press release claims? We don’t think so, nor does Save Coney Island, which issued their own press release today condemning Thor’s plan to demolish the Henderson, Grashorn and Bank of Coney Island buildings as well as the Shore Hotel.
“Thor’s demolition plan would destroy Coney Island’s history and undermine its unique appeal,” said Save Coney Island spokesman Juan Rivero. “It is a short-sighted squandering of the tremendous potential of these buildings to provide a distinctive Coney Island experience.”
The Velocity Nightclub occupied the second floor on the Bowery side of the former Henderson Music Hall until Thor bought the building and evicted them. “The second floor is completely renovated with original brick and steel exposed. It was the balcony of the theater,” says historian Charles Denson, author of Coney Island Lost & Found.
As we noted in February, the Henderson Music Hall was nominated for landmark designation by Coney Island USA, but has yet to be calendared by the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Its chances are thought to be slim since the building has been altered extensively. It was even cut in half! There’s also the unfortunate fact that the Henderson is owned by real estate speculator Joe Sitt of Thor Equities and occupies a prime site at the corner of Surf and Stillwell that has been rezoned for a high rise hotel. City rezoning documents detail the history of the Henderson Music Hall:
Fred Henderson opened the 3-story brick music hall on Stillwell Avenue at the Bowery around 1900. Henderson’s establishment began as a restaurant at Bowery and Henderson Walk in 1881. When that building burned in 1899, Henderson constructed the new structure to the designs of John B. McElfatrick. The original Italianate southern façade (which fronts on the Bowery) has brick piers, corbelling, stone window lintels, and a bracketed cornice. In 1923, Stillwell Avenue south of Surf Avenue was created by the widening of Stratton’s Walk, and Henderson’s Music Hall was cut in half. At that time, a new brick façade with decorative panels and a stepped parapet was added to the Stillwell Avenue frontage. Additional alterations include modern storefronts and replaced windows. The music hall operated until 1926 and featured such music and vaudeville acts as Al Jolson, the Marx Brothers, and Sophie Tucker. During its run, Henderson’s Music Hall was an important Coney Island entertainment venue. From 1926 to 1984, the building housed the World of Wax Musee. The former Henderson’s Music Hall has been extensively altered. This property was identified in the inventory of potential resources prepared by Coney Island USA.
Related posts on ATZ…
September 12, 2010: Video: Coney Island’s Faber’s Fascination by Charles Denson
February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell