Monday, January 11, 2010

Please Attend/Cover: Jan 12th, Historic Ridgewood Theatre May Earn Landmark Status at LPC Public Meeting!

The majority of our historic theaters merit landmarking and adaptive & creative reuse throughout Queens, as they are few & far between, and cornerstones of our American history. Even though this is a predominantly a Rego Park/Forest Hills blog, let's acknowledge the broad picture, and learn how to strategize and volunteer. Sit back, relax, and check out A Case Study in Landmarking now showing at the Ridgewood Theatre. Did I get your hopes up? Read on to see how it can become a reality.............and don't recline too much. Be a proactive community player!

Nearly 2-Year Landmarking Cause In The Making, Boils Down To 1 Day: Commissioners To Vote on Historic Ridgewood Theatre

 RIDGEWOOD, NY (Jan 12, 2010) – Queens’ historic Ridgewood Theatre (55-27 Myrtle Ave) closed its doors in March 2008 without warning, but patrons & preservationists are now elated that the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission will hold a Public Meeting, where Commissioners will vote whether to designate the theater as Queens’ newest Individual Landmark (façade). The Public Meeting for the Ridgewood Theatre (Agenda Item #3, LP-2325) is set for Tues, January 12, 2010 from 10:15 AM – 10:25 AM at the Municipal Building, 1 Centre St, 9th Floor North, NY, NY 10007:  

A hearing was held on March 24, 2009 as a result of a Request For Evaluation form and research, a letter campaign, a petition drive, and a MySpace Group coordinated by Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre, which was founded by Preservationist Michael Perlman after the theater’s closure in 2008. Testimony in support of Individual Landmark status was diverse and abundantly positive, and also included written testimony from Thomas A. Lamb, the great-grandson of Architect Thomas W. Lamb, who was tracked down by Chair Perlman. Co-owner Mario Saggese expressed his support for landmarking the façade, and also said the owners envision a historically-sensitive plan for the downstairs auditorium space consisting of retail to make it economically viable, with modern screens upstairs.

Opening its doors on December 23, 1916 and closing in March 2008, the Ridgewood Theatre was deemed “the longest continuously operating first-run neighborhood theater citywide, and potentially throughout the U.S.” It staged Vaudeville, silent films, saw the advent of photoplays, the first ‘100% All-Talking’ feature, Lights of New York (1928), & Technicolor. Its original seating capacity was 2,500, but currently contains 5 screens and seats 1,950.

Modeled after Times Square’s long-demolished Mark Strand Theatre (the World’s 1st movie palace), the $250,000 Classical Revival gem was designed by America’s foremost theater architect, Thomas White Lamb, & built by the Levy Brothers. The 3-story Indiana limestone & terra cotta façade is highly ornate, incorporating unique geometric patterns, medallions, a frieze, pilasters, and proudly boasts Ridgewood Theatre across the top. Interior murals originally depicted the history of Ridgewood.

Perlman explains: “Theaters are the ‘ultimate public institutions’ which bridge the generations, as they foster community growth and pride, harbor countless memories, and often exhibit the work of our country’s most skillful architects. Commissioned architects hoped to leave a long-lasting impression of grandeur, confidence, serenity, and comfort; a bold step away from the pressures of society.”

Perlman further explains “With the onset of DVDs, and vastly improved home entertainment centers, movie theaters with a minimal number of screens are a highly endangered species citywide. When sacrificed in the name of progress, their loss is most heartfelt. Local theaters with an unfortunate fate include the Oasis, Parthenon, Irving, & RKO Madison Theatre (retail), but the Ridgewood Theatre can be economically viable if preserved and adaptively reused for theater-related purposes. It would contribute to an up & coming neighborhood and a diverse borough.”

Historic & Recent Ridgewood Theatre Photos, courtesy of Chair Michael Perlman, Friends of Ridgewood Theatre:

Online Petition:

Friends of The Ridgewood Theatre MySpace Group:

After a nearly 2-year preservation cause, let's remain hopeful the Landmarks Preservation Commission will do what's right on behalf of Queens residents, countrywide theater buffs, and for history's sake; to educate future generations while paying homage to the best of our past! We shall see on January 12, 2010.

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