31-08 Steinway Street,
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Previously operated by: Fox Circuit, Small-Strausberg Circuit
Firms: E.C. Horne & Sons
Except for two concert halls in New York City, the Steinway Theatre may be the only theatre to ever carry the name of the legendary piano manufacturer, though it had no corporate connection. Located in the Astoria section of Queens, the theatre was the first one to be built on Astoria’s main shopping road, which was named in honor of the Steinway piano factory at its north end on the East River. Built around 1914-15, the Steinway Theatre was designed by the architectural firm of E.C. Horn & Sons for plays and vaudeville, and had about 900 seats.
It was remodeled in 1935, reopening on November 8, 1935 with Lawrence Tibbett in “Metropolitan” & Warner Oland in “Charlie Chan in Shanghai”. By the time that the much larger Astoria Theatre (1920) and Triboro Theatre (1931) were built on Steinway Street, the Steinway Theatre was relegated to playing late-run double features for the rest of its theatrical life, which lasted into the 1950’s, when the interior was converted into retail space. The current tenant, Dr. Jay’s Urban Clothing, has covered the beautiful white marble facade with a modern metallic shield.
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Recent comments (view all 25 comments)
Warren, your last comments just confirm my previous points. Thank’s for your support.
I had thought the thread for this theatre was not active, but I see it is. Growing up in Astoria, I always knew this was a “movie house” (as my parents / grand parents described it.) But for me it was “Learners” , a woman’s / little kid’s store (they had a kid’s department as well).. I know I spent alot of time here when I was little! It was a big store inside, without a hint it was a theatre, I guess thanks to plaster board and dropped ceilings. Talking about the white marble facade.. that was not original to the Steinway theatre. I believe that was part of the late fifties change to “Learners”. Up untill Learners closed, the front of the building was very 50’s looking with a smooth white front with a HUGE LEARNERS neon sign on a 45 degree angle running up the front of the building (lit up in pink neon)I am sure, from viewing photos of the Steinway that the front was destroyed in the original make over to retail. (about the interior, I would not know. In my time (70’s) it was all dropped ceiling.) When they re-opened as DR.Jays, It was all open structure inside. IE exposed brick and I beams. but if you were to walk to the back of the store and go up stairs to the second level, you were walking up through the “ Fly space.” You could /can see a ladder bolted to the wall going up to the roof, you could see, in your minds eye (with help from some bricks and beams, where the auditorium ended and the back stage began.
Here’s a street view from google of the Steinway:
The building is still sitting vacant with a “For Rent” sign displayed. The “false front” used by the last tenant remains. Whether any of the original facade exists behind it is unknown. I’ll try contacting the realtor for information.
I was a teenager when the closed theatre was converted to retail space – I believe it was Lerner’s. I tried to see what remained of the old theatre through the construction. If my recollection is correct the entire facade of the building was removed. Also, in later years I remember standing on Steinway Street and looking back at the building reinforcing my theory that there was a whole new facade. But that was 50 years ago.
Tinseltoes can you tell if any of the old theatre facade is still there? I think it was removed when Lerner’s moved in some 50 years ago.
Well, my wife and I passed by the old Steinway yesterday evening and found that the “modernistic” facade has been removed and that the old white marble frontage now appears to have burst from its “iron mask”. While a remnant of the “Dr. Jays” logo remains etched in the surface, this can probably be corrected – or, perhaps one could say, exorcized.
Since it was dark when we visited the site, I can’t definitively verify this development. What I CAN say is that my wife, who was not previously aware of the site’s specific history, made an unprompted comment that “this looks like an old theater” when she saw it. This comment could not have been made while the awful Dr. Jays facade defiled the exterior.
I hope that other commentators will visit the site, take pictures and either verify or contradict my observations. If I am correct here, this facade could very easily support the development of a classy business, such as a bank or a good restaurant. In any event, let’s take a close look of this very promising recent development.
Early photo of Steinway Street uploaded. You can see the vertical from the theater. Also a later shot showing theater without the vertical and the marquee that was in place to the end.
The current google street view (July 2015) shows the same modern façade, but a new business – Fallas clothing store.
And a spiffy new facade it is.