Brooklyn, one building at a time.
Throwback Thursday: An old post revisited, with an update
Name: Philadelphian Sabbath Church, formerly Kameo Theater, formerly Cameo Theater
Address: 530 Eastern Parkway
Cross Streets: Corner Nostrand Avenue
Neighborhood: Crown Heights South
Year Built: 1924
Architectural Style: Egyptian influenced Art Deco
Architect: Harrison Wiseman
Other Buildings by Architect: Our Lady of Vilnius Church, Yiddish Theater, 2nd Avenue, Manhattan. Also Albemarle, Alpine, Rolland, Pavilion and Loew’s Oriental Theaters in Brooklyn
The story: Way back in the early 1980s, before I moved to Brooklyn, I sang with a choir that made a guest appearance at this church. I remember I didn’t know where I was, as I didn’t know Brooklyn at all, but that the church, obviously a former theater, was very cool. When I moved to Bed Stuy and wandered over here one day, what a pleasant surprise. There it was. It turns out that the place has quite a history, too.
The building was opened as the Cameo Theater in February of 1924. One of its unique features was its 1500 seat roof garden theater, which opened in June of 1924. A concrete screening wall and outdoor auditorium can still be seen on the roof. In 1925, the Loew’s chain took over the theater and renamed it the Kameo. It remained a movie theater until 1974, after which it was sold to the church. Although it needs to have the grime of the city removed, the terra-cotta ornament is well preserved and highly unusual.
The structure of the roof theater remains as well. Inside, the church has preserved many of the original details. A British theater buff named Ken Roe was able to tour the building in 2006, and posted his photos on Flickr. Scroll down about half the page to find them. It’s an unusual building, and along with the former Kings County Savings Bank across Eastern Parkway, it forms our own Deco corner in Crown Heights.
UPDATE: The owner of the property, Herman Weingarten, through his company Weinwolf Realty, had purchased the corner lot from the city. The city bought the corner property in order to build the subway station below Eastern Parkway and Nostrand Avenue. Like all theaters of this time, the Cameo had an impressive electric pipe organ installed for accompaniment of silent films, as well as assembly purposes. This one was a Robert Morton 2 manual, 4 rank organ.
Harrison Wiseman, the architect, was an accomplished theater architect. He was born in Springfield, Ohio, and lived from 1878 to 1945. His career was mostly in NYC, where he designed theaters and other buildings in Manhattan and Brooklyn. He designed 22 theaters in New York City, some of them important pieces of New York’s cultural history. Unlike some theater architects, he did not have a specific style and could adapt his buidings well to his client’s needs and the surrounding neighborhood.
He did a lot of work for Yiddish theaters, and was the architect of the Jaffe Art Theatre (Yiddish Theatre) on Second Avenue, and others. His Brooklyn theaters included the Albemarle Theater in Flatbush, the Pavilion, on PPW, the Loew’s Oriental, on 86th St, the Rolland Theater in Brownsville, and the Alpine, on 5th Avenue in Bay Ridge. He partnered with architect Arthur C. Carlson on the Albemarle and Alpine theaters. GMAP