The BOTD is a no-frills look at interesting structures of all types and from all neighborhoods. There will be old, new, important, forgotten, public, private, good and bad. Whatever strikes our fancy. We hope you enjoy.
Address: 1396 Broadway at Howard Avenue
Name: The Bushwick Theater
Neighborhood: Bushwick at Bed Stuy border
Year Built: 1911
Architectural Style: Beaux Arts
Architects: William McElfatrick, with later work by Thomas Lamb
This immense theater opened as a vaudeville house in 1911, and became part of the RKO movie theatre chain in 1930. It remained a movie theater until 1969, and was then a church for a while, and then abandoned.
While it was in operation, it was a very successful and popular theater, holding many memories for Brooklynites who lived nearby. My aunt remembers her high school graduation from Sara Barton HS being held here. When Bushwick imploded in the late 60’s and 70’s, this theatre suffered greatly, closing, re-opening as a church, and then closing again, now covered with graffiti.
Fortunately, it was completely restored to reopen as the ACORN School for Social Justice in 2004. Today, there is scaffolding around the building, and protective netting around the massive cherubs, Greek theater masks, and other detailing.
The center medallion was gone a long time ago, and it’s a huge shame that the cherubs on the west side have been removed. Hopefully they are in storage and will be returned. This is an amazing building, cutting through the street like a large, ornate ocean liner.
[Photos by Suzanne Spellen]