Posts Tagged ‘Hamiton Theatre Harlem’

The remains of a grand Upper Manhattan theater

November 26, 2012

Decayed, dingy, and partly obscured by a bodega sign, it’s easy to walk right by the former Hamilton Theatre and not have any idea of its hidden grandeur.

Built in 1913 by renowned theater architect Thomas W. Lamb, the Hamilton opened as a vaudeville house, entertaining residents of the rapidly booming upper Manhattan neighborhood now known as Hamilton Heights.

It was a startling beauty. “At the time, vaudeville was the most popular form of theater in the United States,” states the 2000 Landmarks Preservation Commission report designating it a city landmark.

“The Hamilton’s two neo-Renaissance style facades, facing Broadway and West 146th Street, are dominated by large, round-arched windows with centered oculi.”

“The upper stories feature cast-iron and terra cotta details including caryatids, brackets, and Corinthian engaged columns.”

By the 1920s, motion pictures nudged out vaudeville, and the Hamilton became an RKO movie theater in 1928.

It projected its last film in 1958, after which the building served as a sports arena, church, and disco.

Today the lobby of this stately palace has been carved up into retail outlets. Its grand theater, however, lies empty, as this ghostly photo from Cinema Treasures reveals.

Harlem Bespoke has recent news that one of the stores leasing retail space at the Hamilton is vacating the building. Maybe it’s time to restore the entire theater to its original loveliness?

[Top photo: Museum of the City of New York]


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