The Chelsea block where silent films were made

FAMOUS PLAYERS STUDIOS  WEST 26th  STREET, NEW YORK after thWest 26th Street, a silent film mecca? It’s true, for a short while anyway.

The hulking building (below) at number 221 between Seventh and Eighth Avenues that’s now a sound stage for TV shows formerly served as the studio where early silent features were shot and produced.

“The brick barn of a building was originally headquarters for the city’s Ninth Mounted Cavalry division,” writes Richard Alleman in New York: The Movie Lover’s Guide.

Marypickford“When the unit moved to 14th Street in 1914, pioneer film producer Adolph Zucker found the spacious armory—which came complete with a tethering ring for its former equine occupants—a great place for making movies, and he turned it into a studio for his Famous Players Film Company.”

The Famous Players featured top talent at the time, like Mary Pickford (left). Among the films shot and produced here were John Barrymore’s An American Citizen and That Man From Mexico.

ChelseatvstuidoLike the rest of New York’s nascent film industry at the time, the studio’s days for movie-making were numbered. A fire consumed it in September 1915, and Zuker moved his players to a different building uptown.

And then, of course, to Hollywood. The fledgling Famous Players became giant Paramount Pictures.

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6 Responses to “The Chelsea block where silent films were made”

  1. ronfrankl Says:

    Great post. When I first moved into the neighborhood in 1979 the building still looked very similar to its appearance in the first photograph. I was told by someone at the time that it was used mostly for storage of sets and equipment, rather than as a production facility. I seem to recall a CBS logo on the door.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    What a shame that they encased it like that! The FIT building on the corner at Seventh Avenue is just as dreary.

  3. Jeff Dobbins Says:

    Fascinating. Thanks for this piece of lost NYC.

  4. Ellen Levitt Says:

    Have you ever covered the story of Vitagraph Studios? The smokestack with the name is still seen from Avenue M in Midwood, Brooklyn. (Q train, south-bound side is the best viewing.)

  5. bestestbrian Says:

    http://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/before-hollywood-there-was-brooklyn/

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