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Posts Tagged ‘Henderson Music Hall’

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Thor Equities Demolition of the Henderson Building. January 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Coney Island photographer Eric Kowalsky, who documented the demolition of the Bank of Coney Island in November, has eloquently captured the destruction-in-progress of the historic Henderson Music Hall in this series of images.

Eric put his camera through the gate on Henderson Walk to take the above photo of the crushed remains of part of the Henderson Building formerly occupied by Faber’s Fascination. “They took the front and side of the building down. The Bowery is still standing,” he said this morning.

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Thor Equities Demolition of the Henderson Building. January 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Last week we posted historian Charles Denson’s video tribute to the Henderson Theater. As we previously noted, the City aided and abetted Joey “Bulldozer” Sitt by rezoning the Henderson parcel for a high rise hotel. There are however no immediate plans to build a hotel on the site. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark designation and also declined to create a historic district, which would have created tax incentives to rehab the building.

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Thor Equities Demolition of the Henderson Building. January 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

The Henderson Building is the first sight you see on Surf Avenue when you step out of Stillwell Terminal. It is at the corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues. We should probably use the past tense, though the demolition is still underway. The first sight you see when you step out of Stillwell will soon be another empty lot to add to Joe Sitt’s collection of empty lots.

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Thor Equities Demolition of the Henderson Building. January 5, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

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September 29, 2010: Saved or Not? Signs from Coney Island’s Henderson Building

September 24, 2010: Coney Island Cat Is Last Tenant of Henderson Building

September 12, 2010: Video: Coney Island’s Faber’s Fascination by Charles Denson

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

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Demolition of Thor Equities-Owned Shore Hotel, Coney Island. December 10, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Demolition of Thor Equities-Owned Shore Hotel, Coney Island. December 10, 2010. Photo © Eric Kowalsky

Coney Island’s Shore Hotel was built circa 1903 and demolished by Thor Equities on December 10, 2010. It took only a couple of days for the demo men to take down the century-old wood frame building. There’s nothing left but a pile of sticks to be hauled away. Vanishing New York’s post from August 2009, which we linked to on Friday could serve as its epitaph.

In the post-demolition photo below taken on Saturday, Surf Avenue looks like a dowager with a tooth knocked out. Demolition is also underway at the Henderson Building, seen on the right hand side of the photo. The buildings on the left–the Eldorado Bumper Cars and the Popper Building–are NOT owned by Thor Equities and are NOT endangered.

View of Surf Avenue after the Demolition of the Shore Hotel. December 11, 2010.  Photo by Anonymouse

View of Surf Avenue after the Demolition of the Shore Hotel. December 11, 2010. Photo by Anonymouse

Last week photographer Lindsay Wengler took this photo of workers putting demolition scaffolding to the top of the former Henderson Music Hall. The building, which is at the corner of Surf and Stillwell across from Nathan’s, is next on Thor’s hit list of historic properties. You can see more pix from the set on the photoblog Single Linds Reflex.

Demolition Scaffolding at Thor-Owned Henderson Building. December 9, 2010. Photo © Lindsay Wengler/Single Linds Reflex via flickr

Demolition Scaffolding at Thor-Owned Henderson Building. December 9, 2010. Photo © Lindsay Wengler/Single Linds Reflex via flickr

UPDATE… Why Weren’t These Buildings Saved?

We’ve received a few emails asking why these historic buildings were not saved. The short answer is these Thor-owned properties were rezoned for high-rise hotels by the City in July 2009. The long answer is the effort to save these buildings goes back to 2004, when Coney Island USA received a grant from the JM Kaplan Fund to “protect the legacy of old Coney Island” and nominated six buildings for landmark designation. But the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission dragged its feet and would not calendar any of the buildings until 2010, months after the lots had been rezoned. Of the nominated buildings, only two–the Childs Restaurant (owned by CIUSA) and the Shore Theater (owned by Horace Bullard)– are under consideration for landmark designation.

The Municipal Art Society had the Shore Hotel and the Henderson Building on their list of seven to save in Coney Island when MAS testified at a City Planning hearing on the rezoning in May 2009. Among the other structures identified by Coney Island USA, MAS and Save Coney Island were Nathan’s Famous, Childs Restaurant (CIUSA Building), the Grashorn Building, the Bank of Coney Island and the Shore Theater. “Under the NYC Landmarks Law, structures can be designated as landmarks for architectural, historical and cultural reasons,” said MAS’s Lisa Kersavage in her testimony. “Although some of these structures have been altered over the years, their ties to the legendary Coney Island of the past gives them a cultural significance that should be recognized and protected.” The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission denied landmark designation and also declined to create a historic district, which would have created tax incentives to rehab the buildings.

After the Demolition of the Bank Building, Coney Island. December 9, 2010. Photo © Lindsay Wengler/Single Linds Reflex via flickr

After the Demolition of the Bank Building, Coney Island. December 9, 2010. Photo © Lindsay Wengler/Single Linds Reflex via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

March 8, 2010: March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

July 7, 2009: Tall, Skinny & Destined to Kill Coney Island: High Rises on South Side of Surf

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In celebration of the birthday of Harpo Marx, who made his stage debut in Coney Island’s soon-to-be-demolished Henderson Music Hall in 1908, we’ve assembled some of our fave scenes from Harpo’s film and television career. Happy Birthday to Harpo (born November 23, 1888) and Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers. Enjoy!

When Harpo appeared on “I’ve Got A Secret” in 1961 to plug his new memoir Harpo Speaks!, he acted out the answers to interview questions from host Garry Moore while the panelists, including Johnny Carson, try to figure out what he’s miming.

As for Harpo’s debut in show business on June 1, 1908, here’s what he had to say about it in Harpo Speaks

It was not until Minnie got me on the El that the awful truth of her mission struck me, like a bolt of lightning out of a clear blue sky. We were headed for Coney Island. I was being shanghaied. I was being shanghaied to join Groucho, Gummo and Lou Levy. On a stage. Singing. In front of people.

On the train, Minnie screened me with a newspaper, while I changed into a white duck suit, my costume. At the same time she tried to teach me the words to “Darling Nelly Grey.” I was too weak with dread to protest. My mind went blank. I couldn’t possibly learn the song before we got to Coney Island.

As one of “The Four Nightingales” performing at Henderson’s, Harpo had such a bad case of stage fright that he wet his pants…

It was probably the most wretched debut in the history of show business.

Nobody could hear me sing that night in the quartet at Henderson’s. It was all I could do to open my mouth at approximately the same time that Groucho, Lou and Gummo opened their mouths. But I sang, a voiceless swan song. I sang farewell to the streets of the East side, to hurtling and hopping trolleys and swindling ticket choppers, farewell to happy-go-lucky hired today and fired tomorrow wandering from job to job…Like it or not I was in show business for the rest of my days.

Harpo’s Place, a website lovingly put together by Harpo’s son, Bill Marx, features a wonderful collection of family photos and memorabilia. From a list of the Harpo Marx Family Rules–we like #8: “If things get too much for you and you feel the whole world’s against you, go stand on your head. If you can think of anything crazier to do, do it.”

As his father’s “prop man” for 12 years, Bill Marx has a complete list of the unusual items that were part of Harpo’s repertoire, including knives that come out of a coat (and the coat), a clarinet (with mechanical bubble machine and tube), and signs for sewing on the singers’ rear ends! In this BBC clip, a rare voice recording of Harpo speaking is played and Bill explains why Harpo never spoke in film or TV appearances.

In Coney Island, preservationists have tried to save the historic Henderson Music Hall where music and vaudeville acts such as the Marx Brothers, Al Jolson and Sophie Tucker performed. But the building failed to win consideration for landmark status since it has been altered extensively. The City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission also rejected an application by Coney Island USA, Save Coney Island, the Coney Island History Project, the Historic Districts Council and the New York City Landmarks Conservancy to create a historic district. Ironically, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation wrote that “the historic core of Coney Island appears to meet the criteria for listing to the Registers as a historic district.”

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 was rezoned for a high rise hotel in 2009. A demolition permit has been issued and the former music hall is expected to be demolished soon, though there are no immediate plans to build a hotel.

At the same time, the 93rd Street Beautification Committee has been advocating for the preservation of “Marx Brothers Place” in Manhattan. The grassroots group wants the City to extend the Carnegie Hill Historic District one block to include the Marx brothers childhood home at 179 East 93rd Street. For info, visit their blog or e-mail 93rdst.beautification[AT]gmail.com.

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September 27, 2010: Video: The Museum of Wax by Charles Ludlam

September 20, 2010: Movie Monday: Teaser Trailers from the Coney Island Film Festival

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

February 26, 2010: Happy Belated Birthday to Coney Island’s William F Mangels

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Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

On Sunday at the Coney Island Museum’s Ask the Experts series, theater historian Cezar Del Valle will give an illustrated lecture to celebrate the launch of his Brooklyn Theater Index. The first volume covering theaters from Adams Street to Lorimer has just been published. The topic of his talk will be drawn from the third volume, a work-in-progress devoted to Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach.

The subject is timely, since one of Coney Island’s historic theater buildings, the former Henderson Music Hall at Surf and Stillwell, has been doomed to demolition. Pre-demo asbestos abatement is currently underway by Thor Equities despite preservationists efforts to save the building and make it part of an historic district.

Del Valle told ATZ that the Henderson Music Hall will be part of his talk. “Twice in the past, I have been asked to work on landmarking Henderson,” he says. “First on a panel and then in an advisory capacity. Sad to say, nothing ever came of it. I thought the building was being held hostage for some future bargaining ploy but I was wrong. If you went around to the Bowery side, a few of the windows still followed the rake of the old balcony.”

The Henderson was one of six buildings nominated for city landmark designation by Coney Island USA in 2004, although its chances were thought to be slim since the building has been altered extensively. It was even cut in half in 1923 when Stillwell Avenue south of Surf was created!

Del Valle’s area of expertise is New York City popular entertainment between 1850 and the 1950s, including special emphasis on actual theater buildings. He has led walking tours of the lost theaters of Coney Island’s Bowery. “In its fabulous heyday, the resort was more than just rides and arcades; it was home to numerous cabarets, variety halls and movie shows – a training ground for a generation of legendary performers,” says Del Valle.

If you’re able to make a day of it, Save Coney Island will be offering a free walking tour this Sunday at 11 am and every Sunday through the end of September. The guided tour covers the historic buildings along Surf Avenue as well as some of Coney Island’s existing landmarks. According to the group’s website, “we will have historic pictures so you can see what the buildings once were and a few renderings illustrating how these buildings could be creatively restored and reused.”

August 29, 4:30 pm, Ask the Experts! Cezar Del Valle’s Brooklyn Theater Index Book Launch, Coney Island Museum, 1208 Surf Avenue, Coney Island, $5 admission, Free for members of Coney Island USA.

August 29, 11:00 am, Save Coney Island’s Walking Tour of Historic Coney Island, meet in front of the Shore Theater, on the corner of Surf and Stillwell Aves, Rain or shine. Free, but suggested donation of $10 appreciated

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Related posts on ATZ…

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

March 8, 2010: March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect

February 23, 2010: Feb 24: Theater Historian’s Talk Puts Spotlight On Coney Island’s Lost Stages

October 9, 2009: A Rare Peek Inside Endangered Old Bank of Coney Island

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“Predatory developer Thor Equities is evicting small businesses while preparing to demolish the historic Henderson Building…” In this video, you’ll meet two business owners who after 3 decades of operating year-round businesses in the Henderson Building have lost their leases and have to move out.

On Saturday we took a few lousy pix of Popeye’s knowing it would be our last chance. After 27 years in Coney Island, Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits was expected to serve its last supper to customers on Sunday. Today we’re hearing Popeye’s may have gotten a few days reprieve, if you want to head over for a last snack. The Henderson Building at the corner of Surf and Stillwell is one of four lots in Coney Island rezoned last summer for 30-story high rise hotels, which set the stage for the current evictions and demolitions.

Thor-Owned Henderson Building sits on a Parcel Rezoned for a High-Rise Hotel. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Thor-Owned Henderson Building sits on a Parcel Rezoned for a High-Rise Hotel. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

The historic building once known as the Henderson Music Hall is slated to be demolished next month.  In the video, the business owners comments are punctuated by the drill of machinery.  You’ll see workers carrying out asbestos abatement/demolition on the building’s roof without any protection for the people below.  (But that’s another story,  which ATZ has been reporting.)

Maritza, who has operated the souvenir stand on the Stillwell Ave side of the Henderson building for 30 years,  began packing up and moving out on August 11.  In the video, she says she got one week’s notice. “When [Thor Equities] makes the new building he promised to give me a 10 year lease, but I don’t know. They’re supposed to talk to me about it, but I’m still here waiting,” Maritza says in the video. After Thor announced demolition plans in April, a rendering was released of a cheesy looking temporary one-story building occupied by hamburger and taco food joints. At the time we thought it was a ploy to get demo permits from the City and put an end to preservationists’ efforts to get approval for an historic district in Coney Island.

Will Popeye’s and Maritza find a spot in Joe Sitt’s future Mall of Coney Island? That depends on whether you think such a thing will ever be built. From where we stand, Joe Sitt is just creating another empty lot in Coney Island to add to his collection of empty lots. If you’re skeptical, we suggest you take a look at what the now decimated Stillwell Avenue looked like before Joe Sitt.

Evicted by Thor Equities, Popeye's Chicken in Coney Island Closes after 27 Years. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

UPDATE April 10, 2012:

Popeyes Chicken reopened today at 1220 Surf Avenue, a new doors down from their original location, in a building owned by another landlord. The popular fast-food restaurant’s new home is in the Popper Building, which has a distinctive old copper sign that says “Herman Popper & Bro.” and a colorful history.
“Relocated Popeyes Set to Open Today in Coney Island,” ATZ, April 10, 2010

UPDATE August 24, 2010:

Popeye’s last chicken dinner will be served tonight! After 27 years at this location, the restaurant will close at midnight. Thirty people, including 20 year-round employees, are now out of work. The owner has until the end of the month to move out his equipment. He hopes to stay in Coney Island and is looking at two locations- one on the south side of Surf Avenue and another on the north side. We wish him luck and hope to see Popeye’s back soon!

Save Coney Island is giving free walking tours every Sunday through the end of September. The tours highlight the four soon-to-be demolished buildings owned by Thor Equities along Surf Avenue as well as some of Coney’s existing landmarks. This Sunday’s guest tour guide will be historian Charles Denson, author of Coney Island: Lost and Found.

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Related posts on ATZ…

August 19, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Crack of Dawn Demo Work Attracts Scrutiny

April 29, 2010: Photo of the Day: Interior of Coney Island’s Doomed Henderson Music Hall

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

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Velocity Nightclub in the Henderson Building, 2007. Photo © Charles Denson

Velocity Nightclub in the Henderson Building, 2007. Photo © Charles Denson

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.

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

Vintage Postcard of Henderson's Music Hall Stage in Coney Island. Cezar Del Valle Collection

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.

Henderson Building: Thor Equities banner dwarfs shuttered Shoot out the Star. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

Henderson Building: Thor Equities banner dwarfs shuttered Shoot out the Star. Photo © Tricia Vita//me-myself-i via flickr

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Related posts on ATZ…

September 12, 2010: Video: Coney Island’s Faber’s Fascination by Charles Denson

April 21, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Tattered Tents, Deathwatch for Historic Buildings

March 3, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: What Stillwell Looked Like Before Joe Sitt

February 10, 2010: Thor’s Coney Island: Amusement Operators Balk, Money Talks at Stillwell

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