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Shore Theater

Coney Island’s Shore Theater in the days after Hurricane Sandy. November 5, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita

Can the Shore Theater, vacant for 40 years and designated a New York City landmark in 2010, be saved? On Monday, a group of people armed with bolt cutters cut the locks on a side door and went inside to find out. Sources on the scene told ATZ that one member of the group claimed they plan to buy and rehab the property as a hotel, restaurant and retail and need to find out if it is salvageable or beyond repair. Accompanying them was Kelly Floropoulos of Amiantos Environmental, whose firm does environmental site assessments. Reached by phone, Ms. Floropoulos told ATZ, “I can’t disclose any information. We’re still in the preliminary stages of assessment. It will take a few weeks.”

Shore Theater

Homeless encampment under the sidewalk shed at the Shore Theater. July 30, 2015. Photo © Tricia Vita

When the building was about to win landmark designation in 2010, we wrote “March 23: Rescuing Coney Island’s Shore Theater from 35 Years of Neglect” (March 8, 2010). However, five more years of neglect have followed. A sampling of complaints to the DOB since then has included homeless encampment residing on a regular basis on the sidewalk shed and inside the building accessing by a ladder, safety concerns for the homeless as well as the public, windows unboarded, doors ripped, scaffold area is dark and unmaintained, falling debris.

The mystery buyer said he was one of the owners of the lot on the north side of Surf across from the Cyclone. A phone call to PYE Properties, which has a sign up advertising Coming Soon Retail Stores for Rent on the undeveloped lot, yielded no additional info. “I don’t know what you’re referring to,” said a spokeswoman. “Call back in a month.”

Shore Theater

Shore Theater. June 13, 2013. Photo © Tricia Vita

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Shore Theater

Vacant and for Sale: The Shore Theater, on left, viewed from the Thunderbolt lot, a 3-acre development site. July 30, 2012. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The above photo taken yesterday shows Coney Island’s long-vacant Shore Theater, on the left, viewed from the three-acre development site where the Thunderbolt roller coaster, illegally demolished by the City in 2000, once stood. Both are owned by Horace Bullard and are among two dozen privately owned properties advertised for sale or lease on a Coney Island Development Corp. map of retail opportunities in 2011 and 2012. The Shore Theater has an asking price of $13 million and the Thunderbolt parcel says “Submit all Offers.” Nobody snapped ’em up yet. If you think about it, buyers are few in Coney’s over-priced amusement area. There’s the City and Thor Equities. Plus Coney Island USA, which bought the building next door to their sideshow headquarters.

Coney Island USA’s artistic director Dick Zigun and Brooklyn Daily deserve credit for calling attention to the plight of the Shore Theater, which has been shuttered for more than 35 years. In December 2010, the City landmarked the exterior and presumably would like to see the building restored. But in our opinion, Zigun saying that the City should seize the Shore from its owner and the Brooklyn Daily doing a reader poll on the E.D. issue is grandstanding to make a point.

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loew's Coney Island, is up for City landmark designation. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loews Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Bloomberg administration was right to back off from the idea of taking land by condemnation from Thor Equities and other Coney Island property owners during the rezoning hearings in 2009. Under sharp questioning by City Council land use committee members, the EDC’s Seth Pinsky was forced to admit, “I’m not saying we will use eminent domain, but in fairness to your question, I’m not saying we won’t.” In order to get Council members to agree to vote for the zoning, the EDC instead had to negotiate an agreement to buy property from Thor Equities. At the same time, Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park and other property owners were no longer threatened by E.D.

As for the Shore, the City should either come up with the money to buy Bullard’s property or find a buyer. Community Board 13’s land use committee voted yes on the Coney Island rezoning, but one of the non-binding stipulations was that the City buy the theater and make it into a community arts center. What happened to that idea? Ideally BP Marty Markowitz could use the $64 million set aside for the Seaside Park amphitheater to purchase and renovate the Shore. Or somebody can start a “Chip in” to buy the Shore and Mayor Bloomberg can make it one of his charitable projects. The City should buy the Thunderbolt parcel too and use it to right Mayor Giuliani’s wrong and rebuild either the Thunderbolt or the Tornado.

As far as we know, there’s no precedent for the Landmarks Preservation Commission taking property by Eminent Domain. There is however the precedent of a Demolition by Neglect lawsuit which, if successful, requires the owner to fix up the property or sell it. As ATZ reported at the time of the Shore’s landmarking in December 2010:

If the building is landmarked, Demolition by Neglect laws could come into play. The New York City demolition by neglect ordinance states, “every [owner] of a landmark site or historic district shall keep in good repair (1) all of the exterior portions of such improvement and (2) all interior portions thereof which, if not so maintained, may cause or tend to cause the exterior portions of such improvement to deteriorate, decay or become damaged or otherwise to fell into a state of disrepair.” NEW YORK, N.Y., CODE § 25-311 (2001).

Last year [2009], in a precedent setting lawsuit, the City was awarded $1.1 million in civil penalties and gave the owners of the landmarked Windermere apartments a choice of fixing the property or selling it. “This settlement sends a message to owners of landmarked buildings that they must keep them in a state of good repair,” said Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a New York City Law Department press release about the case. “Buildings like the Windermere are an indispensable part of New York City’s architectural heritage and must be preserved for future generations.”

A rare glimpse of the ornate interior of the Shore Theater, photographed by historian Charles Denson, is on view at the Coney Island History Project exhibit center though September 3rd.

UPDATE August 4, 2012

Charles Denson’s beautiful photos of the Shore Theater interior made into a heartbreaking video. Watch it here.

Coney Island Theatre Building.  Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

Coney Island Theatre Building. Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

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Shore Theater for Sale. Dec 19, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Shore Theater for Sale. Dec 19, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Since the Shore Theater became an official New York City landmark last week, the “For Sale” banners on its scaffolding have beckoned. ATZ phoned the broker to ask a) the price and b) if we could get a peek inside. Hey, we’re curious. The Shore Theater was built at the same time as the Cyclone roller coaster and the Wonder Wheel, yet it’s been dark for as long as we’ve been coming to Coney Island. The theater closed in the 1970s.

If buying the Shore and saving it from 35 years of neglect is on your Christmas Wish List, please be a millionaire. The building will cost you $12 million. Fillmore broker Lenny Libman says he has “a few prospective buyers” as well as businesses looking to lease the ground floor. He does not think the City will buy it. As for a peek inside, we’re still working on it. Libman says, “It would be taking your life into your own hands” due to the condition of the interior.

The building’s owner Horace Bullard wouldn’t allow anyone inside prior to the designation because he feared the building would be landmarked, says Libman. Even HBO’s hit show “Boardwalk Empire” has failed to get their foot in the door. Ironically the Shore Theater was landmarked anyway, though only the exterior was considered for designation at this time. Elisabeth de Bourbon of the Landmarks Preservation Commission told ATZ that by law the commission may consider only those buildings which are “customarily open to the public” for interior designation.

New York City has 110 buildings with landmarked interiors, including Grand Central Station and the lobbies of the Empire State and Woolworth Buildings, as well as such Broadway theaters as the Majestic, Martin Beck, Ambassador and Beacon.

Shore Theater for Sale. Dec 19, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

Shore Theater for Sale. Dec 19, 2010. Photo © Bruce Handy/Pablo 57 via flickr

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December 14, 2010: Amid Demolitions & Evictions in Coney Island, City Landmarks Shore Theater

December 13, 2010: R.I.P Coney Island’s Shore Hotel, Henderson Next on Hit List

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

Read Full Post »

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loew's Coney Island, is up for City landmark designation. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loews Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

On December 14, the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will designate the Shore Theater an official New York City Landmark, according to the website of the Municipal Art Society. We applaud the landmarking, which is long overdue. The designation will help rescue the building, which has been vacant and neglected for 35 years. But the timing of the announcement, just as the demolitions and evictions of much of old Coney Island are in the news, including the Op-Ed page of the New York Times, strikes us as a little too coincidental. It’s as if the City is saying, hey look over here, we’re saving Coney Island!

Five years ago, the 1925 Shore Theater, formerly the Loew’s Coney Island, and five other historic buildings were nominated for New York City landmark designation by Coney Island USA. But the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission dragged its feet and would not calendar any of the buildings until February 2010, months after Coney Island had been rezoned. Of the nominated buildings, only two–the Childs Restaurant (owned by CIUSA) and the Shore Theater (owned by Horace Bullard)– were considered worthy of landmark designation. The Shore Hotel was demolished on Friday and the Henderson Building is next on Thor Equities hit list. The doomed buildings were on parcels rezoned for high rise hotels.

As for the Shore Theater, we would not be surprised if the City ended up acquiring the building. At the Community Board’s public hearing on the Coney Island rezoning, there was a proposal to revive the Shore as a community center. When the LPC held a public hearing on the landmark designation in March 2010, ATZ noted

The Shore’s history as a year-round entertainment venue fits in with the Bloomberg administration’s long-term plan to revitalize Coney Island as a year-round destination.

Sources tell ATZ that the City has been trying to buy Bullard’s Coney Island properties or negotiate a land swap. We have also heard rumors of a “blight” taking of the Shore Theater based on the fact that the property owner has done nothing with the building for 25 years. In fact, the Shore has been vacant for over 35 years! Bullard’s acrimonious relationship with the City dates back to the Giuliani administration, when the Mayor killed his plans to build a new Steeplechase Park and illegally demolished the Thunderbolt roller coaster.

The day before the LPC’s calendaring of the Shore Theater in February, Bullard was served with a violation from the Department of Buildings. The caps are the DOB’s: “FAILURE TO FILE AN ACCEPTABLE SIXTH ROUND TECHNICAL FACADE REPORT.” Cycle 6 ended February 20, 2010. Chunks of the facade are falling off.

If the building is landmarked, Demolition by Neglect laws could come into play. The New York City demolition by neglect ordinance states, “every [owner] of a landmark site or historic district shall keep in good repair (1) all of the exterior portions of such improvement and (2) all interior portions thereof which, if not so maintained, may cause or tend to cause the exterior portions of such improvement to deteriorate, decay or become damaged or otherwise to fell into a state of disrepair.” NEW YORK, N.Y., CODE § 25-311 (2001).

Last year, in a precedent setting lawsuit, the City was awarded $1.1 million in civil penalties and gave the owners of the landmarked Windermere apartments a choice of fixing the property or selling it. “This settlement sends a message to owners of landmarked buildings that they must keep them in a state of good repair,” said Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a New York City Law Department press release about the case. “Buildings like the Windermere are an indispensable part of New York City’s architectural heritage and must be preserved for future generations.”

Coney Island Theatre Building.  Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

Coney Island Theatre Building. Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

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December 13, 2010: R.I.P Coney Island’s Shore Hotel, Henderson Next on Hit List

November 24, 2010: Photo of the Day: R.I.P. Bank of Coney Island

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

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Coney Island Theatre Building.  Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

Coney Island Theatre Building. Photo © katherine of chicago via flickr

In advance of a public hearing set for March 23rd, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission has released a detailed description of the long vacant Shore Theater that positively sings landmark designation and Broadway at the Beach! ATZ is reprinting it in its entirety below for your reading pleasure. We hope it will inspire you to voice your support at the hearing or via letters and emails to LPC.

If you have additional info about the history of the Shore Theater or photos of the interior, now is the time to come forward. The exterior is currently up for landmarking, but the LPC may consider the interior at a later date. People who have been inside the Shore have said that architectural features of the ornate interior remain and can be restored.

We think that the Shore Theater, as well as the Coney Island USA Building (the former Childs Restaurant), which is also on the agenda for March 23, will be landmarked. The two buildings are considered the most likely to win landmark designation of the six historic structures in the amusement area nominated by Coney Island USA. In 2007, the City funded Coney Island USA’s $3.6 million purchase of the former restaurant and landmark status will make the 1917 building eligible for grants to continue CIUSA’s ongoing renovation. The Shore’s history as a year-round entertainment venue fits in with the Bloomberg administration’s long-term plan to revitalize Coney Island as a year-round destination.

But Horace Bullard, the Shore’s owner, is likely to voice objections. Last month Bullard told the Bay News that landmarking would “handicap” the transformation of the amusement district: “If all of old Coney Island was there and it was all landmarked, it virtually would no longer be an amusement district – it would be a historic district.”

Sources tell ATZ that the City has been trying to buy Bullard’s Coney Island properties or negotiate a land swap. We have also heard rumors of a “blight” taking of the Shore Theater based on the fact that the property owner has done nothing with the building for 25 years. In fact, the Shore has been vacant for over 35 years! Bullard’s acrimonious relationship with the City dates back to the Giuliani administration, when the Mayor killed his plans to build a new Steeplechase Park and illegally demolished the Thunderbolt roller coaster.

Across the Street from the Shore Theater: Nathan's, the Parachute Jump.  Photo © Betty Blade via flickr

Across the Street from the Shore Theater: Nathan's, the Parachute Jump. Photo © Betty Blade via flickr

The day before the LPC’s calendaring of the Shore Theater in February, Bullard was served with a violation from the Department of Buildings. The caps are the DOB’s: “FAILURE TO FILE AN ACCEPTABLE SIXTH ROUND TECHNICAL FACADE REPORT.” Cycle 6 ended February 20, 2010. Chunks of the facade are falling off.

If the building is landmarked Demolition by Neglect laws could come into play. The New York City demolition by neglect ordinance states, “every [owner] of a landmark site or historic district shall keep in good repair (1) all of the exterior portions of such improvement and (2) all interior portions thereof which, if not so maintained, may cause or tend to cause the exterior portions of such improvement to deteriorate, decay or become damaged or otherwise to fell into a state of disrepair.” NEW YORK, N.Y., CODE § 25-311 (2001).

Last year, in a precedent setting lawsuit, the City was awarded $1.1 million in civil penalties and gave the owners of the landmarked Windermere apartments a choice of fixing the property or selling it. “This settlement sends a message to owners of landmarked buildings that they must keep them in a state of good repair,” said Robert B. Tierney, chairman of the Landmarks Preservation Commission in a New York City Law Department press release about the case. “Buildings like the Windermere are an indispensable part of New York City’s architectural heritage and must be preserved for future generations.”

As ATZ reported last month (“Feb 9: First Step in Landmark Designation of Coney Island’s Shore Theater”), much has been written about the Shore Theater in recent months. Vanishing New York’s photo essay on the theater’s history and probable future and “The Shore Theater: A Sure Part of Coney Island’s Future?” by the Municipal Art Society’s Melissa Baldock are required reading. The Municipal Art Society, Coney Island USA and Save Coney Island are among the organizations that support the landmark designation.

Coney Island's Shore Theater. Photo via masnyc's flickr

Coney Island's Shore Theater. Photo via masnyc's flickr


The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission Report on the Shore Theater…

CONEY ISLAND THEATRE (LATER SHORE THEATER) BUILDING
1301 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn (aka 2932-2952 Stillwell Avenue)
Built: 1924-25
Architect: [Paul C.] Reilly & [Douglas Pairman] Hall, with Samuel L. Malkind
Builder: Chanin Construction Company
Style: neo-Renaissance Revival
Significant Alterations: Marquee removed, storefront infill, replacement windows
Previous Actions: None

The Coney Island Theatre Building was constructed in 1924-25 to the designs of experienced theater architects Reilly & Hall, with associate architect Samuel L. Malkind, all of whom were protégés of the famous theater architect Thomas W. Lamb. The builder was the Chanin Construction Company, specialists in theater construction. Opened on June 27, 1925 with screenings of the silent film “The Sporting Venus” and live performances by the famous Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, the seven-story neo-Renaissance Revival style structure housed a 2,500-seat auditorium theater for vaudeville and motion pictures as well as six stories of office space. Shortly after its opening, the theater came under the operation of Marcus Loew, founder of one of the nation’s premier movie theater chains. According to one source, Al Jolson performed at Loew’s Coney Island Theatre on August 11, 1949.

The Coney Island Theatre was an important part of a redevelopment initiative launched in the early 1920s by the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce (organized in 1923) that aimed to transform the existing core of outdoor amusements into a more respectable year-round entertainment district. The 1920 construction of the Stillwell Avenue subway station and construction of the boardwalk, which made the beachfront publicly accessible for the first time, had paved the way for a revamped Coney Island. The Theatre Building was one of the few buildings on Coney Island to be constructed of more permanent, fireproof materials like brick, stone and terra cotta; when completed, it stood out in contrast to the traditionally low-rise wood and plaster buildings of the amusement district. In addition to a year-round theater, the Chamber of Commerce promoted other amusement ventures such as Child’s Restaurant, the Cyclone Roller Coaster, and the Wonder Wheel (all designated New York City landmarks), as well as RKO’s Tilyou Theater and the Half Moon Hotel (both demolished). Today the Coney Island Theatre Building remains among the tallest structures on the Coney Island skyline.

The theater-and-office building was erected by the Chanin Construction Company, founded in 1919 by Irwin S. Chanin, an engineer and architect, and his brother Henry Chanin, an accountant. The Chanin Construction Company soon became one of the city’s preeminent design-build firms, and in 1924 branched out into theater construction. Between 1924 and 1927, the Chanins built six Broadway theaters: the Forty-sixth Street, Biltmore, Mansfied, Majestic, and Royale theaters, and the Theater Masque, all of which are designated New York City Landmarks (the Biltmore Theater is a designated interior landmark). The 6,200-seat Roxy Theater (demolished) was also the work of the Chanin brothers. In addition to theaters, the Chanins erected a number of significant residential and commercial buildings throughout the city in the the 1920s and 1930s, including the Century and the Majestic apartments on Central Park West (1931 and 1930-31, respectively), and the Chanin Building (Irwin S. Chanin with Sloan & Robertson, 1927-29), all designated New York City landmarks.

Designed by Paul C. Reilly and Douglas Pairman Hall, the building is a modest interpretation of an Italian Renaissance palazzo. Constructed using the latest in fireproofing technology and clad in limestone, buff brick and cream-colored terra cotta with green accents, the building has a rusticated base with arcaded Florentine arches, a terra-cotta clerestory, and a roof pavilion with arched windows and a balcony. Decorative panels and balustrades enliven the building’s facade. The plain brick box of the auditorium space, which is roughly five stories in height and has a covered fire escape/exit on the exterior, extends to the rear of the seven-story building. Both Reilly and Hall were employed by the firm of Thomas W. Lamb prior to forming their own partnership in 1920, Reilly as Lamb’s chief designer. Their associate on the project, Samuel L. Malkind, also worked for Lamb in the late 1910s. The architects’ design for the Coney Island Theatre Building was illustrated in R.W. Sexton’s book American Theatres of Today, published in 1927.

Vintage view: The Stage at the Shore Theater. Photo from stevesobczuk via flickr

Vintage view: The Stage at the Shore Theater. stevesobczuk via flickr

The Coney Island Theatre Building is unusual for its combination of a theater with a full-size office building, a typology more often seen in Manhattan’s theater district than in the outer boroughs. Another interesting feature of the building’s design is the single entrance for theater patrons; reportedly owing to his childhood memories of entering movie theaters through secondary entrances for low-price ticket holders, Irwin Chanin of Chanin Construction did away with the secondary entrance in all of his theater buildings, exclaiming “Whether you’ve got a nickel or a five-dollar bill, go right inside… You’re part of the audience”. (Irwin S. Chanin obituary, New York Times, Feb. 26 1988)

In 1964 the theater came under the operation of Harry Brandt, who renamed it the Shore Theater. Just two years later the theater stopped showing films and began staging musical revues. From 1966 until 1971 the theater was operated by Leroy C. Griffith, a national burlesque entrepreneur; Griffith’s opening show at the Shore Theater was called “Stars ‘n Strips Forever”. After a brief stint showing adult films, the theater was converted into a bingo hall.

Still remarkably intact, the Coney Island Theatre Building is an impressive reminder of Coney Island’s heyday as America’s playground.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is located on the 9th Floor of the Municipal Building at the corner of Centre Street and Chambers Street, across from City Hall, in Manhattan. The public hearing is on the LPC calendar for Tuesday, March 23rd. The hearing time will be scheduled a week in advance and posted on the LPC’s website. Mailing address: Landmarks Preservation Commission, Municipal Building, 1 Centre Street, 9th Floor New York, NY 10007

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December 14, 2010: Amid Demolitions & Evictions in Coney Island, City Landmarks Shore Theater

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

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

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On Wednesday at the Brooklyn Central Library, theater historian Cezar Del Valle will give an illustrated talk on the history of the Legitimate Stage, Vaudeville, Burlesque and Minstrel Show in Brooklyn’s three entertainment districts: Fulton Street, Eastern District, and Coney Island.

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

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.

The subject is timely since Coney Island’s two historic theater buildings–the Shore Theater and the Henderson Music Hall— have been nominated for New York City landmark designation by Coney Island USA. A March 23 public hearing date has been set for the Shore Theater, a 2,500 seat movie and vaudeville house built in 1925. The building has been shuttered by owner Horace Bullard since the 1970s. Sources tell ATZ the City is trying to acquire the Shore Theater with the idea of reviving it as a year-round entertainment destination.

Also up for landmarking on March 23 is Coney Island USA’s Building (former Childs Restaurant), which is currently in use as a theater for the Coney Island Sideshow and Burlesque at the Beach. The second floor houses the Coney Island Museum. In 2008 the non-profit arts organization bought the 1917 building with $3.6 million funding from the City.

The Henderson Music Hall has yet to be calendared. Its chances of gaining landmark designation 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.

February 24, 7:00 pm, “Brooklyn Stages,” Brooklyn Collection Reserve Room at Brooklyn Central Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, 718- 230-2762. “Seating is limited so come early and join us for wine and cheese from 6:30 to 7.”

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The Shore Theater, formerly the Loew's Coney Island, is up for City landmark designation. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

The Shore Theater, formerly the Loews Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Five years ago, the 1925 Shore Theater, formerly the Loew’s Coney Island, was nominated for New York City landmark designation by Coney Island USA. On Tuesday, February 9, at 9:35 a.m., the long vacant building owned by Horace Bullard is expected to be put on the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s calendar for a public hearing. This is the first step in the landmark designation process.

If you wish to attend Tuesday’s public meeting, don’t be late because the calendaring is expected to take a mere five minutes! The Shore is on the schedule from 9:35-9:40 a.m. Sources say the LPC staff will present a PowerPoint on the building’s history and then there might be a brief discussion among the commissioners. They are likely to vote to calendar the building.

The public hearing is typically scheduled one to six months after the calendaring. According to the Commission’s FAQs about the designation process, the public will get to have their say at the public hearing and may submit written statements at that time.

Much has been written about the Shore Theater in recent months. Vanishing New York’s photo essay on the theater’s history and probable future and “The Shore Theater: A Sure Part of Coney Island’s Future?” by the Municipal Art Society‘s Melissa Baldock are required reading.

Baldock says the Shore represents the optimism for the future of Coney Island at the dawn of the “Nickel Empire” and is one of Coney Island’s most striking buildings: “Its theater sat nearly 2,400 people, and above the theater were several stories of office space intended for the entertainment industry, which the developers hoped would flourish in Coney Island.”

We hope the building can be renovated and restored so that art and entertainment will again flourish in this once grand movie and vaudeville venue. Although the calendering does not list the building’s interior, we’re told the LPC may consider the interior at a later date.

The Shore Theater is also the first of six Coney Island buildings nominated for landmark designation by Coney Island USA. The others are Nathan’s Famous, Coney Island USA Building (former Childs Building), the Grashorn Building (Coney Island’s oldest), the Henderson Building, and the building that housed the B & B Carousell. Coney Island’s four designated City landmarks are the Cyclone Roller Coaster, the Wonder Wheel, the Parachute Jump and the Childs Building on the Boardwalk.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission is located on the 9th Floor of the Municipal Building at the corner of Centre Street and Chambers Street, across from City Hall, in Manhattan. More information, including a link to a form to nominate a building for landmark status, is available on the LPC’s website.

UPDATE FEB. 9, 5:30 pm…The Municipal Art Society reports that this morning the LPC voted unanimously to calendar the exterior of the Shore Theater, including the rear portion of the building (shown in photo.) Says MAS, “The next step in the landmarking process will be a public hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. We encourage the public to voice their support for the designation of the entire Shore Theater building at this hearing or through sending letters and emails. The final designation steps will be the Commission’s vote, followed by a City Council vote.” Courier Life’s Joe Maniscalco reports that the public hearing date for the Shore theater designation has been set for March 23 and the calendaring of the Coney Island USA Building on February 16.

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December 14, 2010: Amid Demolitions & Evictions in Coney Island, City Landmarks Shore Theater

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