Friday, March 6, 2015


So I am looking through the New York Public Library and their new way of viewing on line.  The clarity is a little better.  However, looking around, I found a picture of a house that is listed as being on 110th Street and Riverside but really it is a house that was on 108th and Riverside.

This is looking south on September 30th 1870 from 109th Street.  Obviously much has changed but there is so much that is recognizable today.  None of the houses are with us but the shape of the island of greenery (the tangled mess of bushes and trees) between the service road, merely a suggestion at this point, and the main drive is starting to look familiar.   The service road does not exist on the 1867 maps and neither do these houses.  There are houses that unfortunately do not appear in this photo but do appear, along with their drive ways, on the 1867 map.  The hill leading down from 106th street to the intersection of the service road and 108th street where the shortest timed traffic light on the west side is placed is already evident.  Where the wagon with the big wheel in the middle of the drive is sitting is 108th street.  In such a short period of time, massive change will happen.  The white house on the left is on the north corner of 108th street and Riverside Drive.  How much longer will it be there?  It will be gone in less than 17 years.

This is 108th street and Riverside Drive in 1921 while the Drive was at the end of it's second incarnation.  The is house is part of the second wave, or incarnation of Riverside Drive.  I believe that we are in the third incarnation at this point.  It was hoped that the Drive would rival Fifth Avenue and would become a thoroughfare of suburban type villas for the wealthy.  Although the construction of many large private unattached homes, ranging from houses such as this one to the largest private house ever built on this rock (The Schwab Mansion of 1906 at 73rd street and Riverside Drive), single family homes gave way to apartment house construction in the first few decades of the twentieth century.

Built in 1892 for Samuel Gamble Bayne (1844- 1924 ), the son of a prosperous merchant in the town Ramelton, Ireland.  At the age of  twenty-five Sam graduated from Queen's University Belfast and decided to travel to America.  While he was here Samuel G. Bayne accumulated enough wealth to join the billionaires club.  His wealth was based on gold prospecting in California, oil in Texas and banking; he was a founder of Seaboard National Bank, which ultimately after several mergers and acquisitions became what we all know and love today - Chase Manhattan Bank (now JP Morgan Chase).  Could that be the nearly 80 year old Bayne sitting on the steps?

Bayne was involved in keeping the area around his home as elegant as possible and bought the vacant lots on 107th Street and 108th Street. Andrew Carnegie would do something similar on 5th Avenue, to control who his neighbors would be.
When Bayne sold the Riverside Drive lots near his house in 1899, restrictions were put into the sales agreement controlling not so much the neighbors, but how the the lots would be developed. Only “high class residences” with no more than two detached homes were to be built on the lots and that there be at least 30 feet between the houses in the middle of the block and those on either corner.  What is with us today is a result of these stipulations, the distances between 355 Riverside, 353 and 352 Riverside and 351 Riverside (the Schinasi Mansion) are 30 feet and they allow sun to get into the usually dark sides of houses too close together. 

This photo, looking north / uptown dates from 1894 and was taken by J.S. Johnston.  It is labeled, not by the Library but but by the photographer as being on 110th street.  I always had doubts about the location, and the house looked too familiar to the Bayne House.  A little more comparison and a closer look with the zoom, a street lamp and the indications of a street appeared to me.  This is clearly not 110th street as it is no way wide enough.  What is great about this picture is that we can see the house that was to be the second structure on the north east corner of 108th and Riverside the second (?) 360 Riverside Drive.
Both houses were built by Bayne and designed by Frank Freeman.  355 Riverside was a larger house and Bayne had an ever growing family.  He sold 360 Riverside Drive and moved to 355 Riverside by 1892. 

When 362 went up a spite wall was built on the north end of the lot of 360 Riverside, blocking the views of the side garden and the river looking south.  Cora B. and John A. Rutherford were the owners of 360 Riverside when 362 Riverside went up.  Cora was the descendent of Henry Spingler Fonerden Davis who had purchased the house from Samuel Bayne.  She had found it too insulting to live next to an apartment building.  She eventually sold the house and lot in 1917 to the Paterno Brothers who, with their favorite architect, Gaetan Ajello and built the current 360 Riverside Drive, known as The Rutherford.  No mention of Bayne, a man who left a mark on this neighborhood, in a good way, anywhere . . . I'm just saying  . . .

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Upper West Side Country - The slowly disappearing vestiges of rural life.

This is a section of one of the plates that comprise the Dripps Map of 1868.   It is based on the Commissioners Plan of 1811 map.  The map that did not take in the topography of this rock we call Manhattan.  It includes the old farm names, property owners, the structures that were present on the blocks created by the Grid and shows the old lanes and the route of the 1842 Croton Aqueduct.  The future road called Broadway is indicated to the left of the Bloomingdale Road.  Edge Hill is a name not used for way over a century for the area surrounding 112th Street and Riverside Drive.  Just above that the name Andrew Carrigan appears, a name that is associated with the creation of a bank and laws protecting newly arrived immigrants from the machinations of con men (and woman).  Looking at the larger triangle created when the Bloomingdale Road crosses 11th Avenue the name M.T. Brennan appears, as does the house he owns.  Matthew Brennan was a Tammany Hall connected former volunteer fireman who had moved up in the world. Eventually he sold the house to Isidore and Ida Straus who eventually booked passage on the Titanic.  The house, which had the first cast iron bathtub in the United States was torn down soon after the tragedy and 924 West End Avenue rose in its place.  On top of all this, the map shows us a "Burying Ground" at what is now 110th Street and Columbus Avenue.  The map also serves to solve the orientation of the following photos. 

I know that people have found this picture out there before.  I have never been able to find a photographer's name attached to it.  However every source declares that this picture is of the David Knapp house on West 105th Street near 10th Avenue and dates from 1875.  But which way are we looking?  North west. Those telephone poles in the distance, serving to bring lower Manhattan to the sticks, quite possibly could be on Broadway.

The orientation here is facing north east.  And like the photo above this one, 1875 is the date and West 105th Street is the location.  For this photo, one more piece of information was given; the large white house on the right was known as the David Gorham House in 1875.  On the map The David Knapp house is to the west of the David Gorham house.  On the map above, the Gorham house was owned by S.A. King.  This view is from the south west looking north east.  The road on the right is possibly the end of Clendening Lane. 
John Clendening was a landowner in the area, and this would have been, over 30 years earlier, the north west corner of the property.  The lane served as a boundary line as well as a lane.
This is Clendening's house.  Clendening lived on his rural estate for many years, but in 1836 he lost most of his money when President Andrew Jackson refused to renew the charter of the United States Bank, in which Clendening was a major stockholder. The estate was sold in 1845 as forty lots for a total of $4500.

 Although the mansion was torn down the area was known as Clendening Valley well into the post civil war 19th century New York.  On the site where Clendening's house one stood, the Clendening Hotel (left and below) rose in its place on the west side of Amsterdam Avenue at 103rd street.  The Hotel survived until 1965 when it was torn down for furthest west building of the Douglas Houses complex.
The house called "Woodlawn", on the block bordered by 106th and 107th, Riverside Drive and West End Avenue, was owned by the Rogers family.  Their property ran east along 103rd Street from Riverside Drive, around a little piece owned by the Furniss family, who owned a once upon a time very large estate. By the late 19th century all that was left was the house and the land around it - 99th Street to 100th street, Riverside Drive to West End Avenue.  The house was called "The Colonial White House" and was famous enough to have it's own postcard.

This is The Colonial White House.  The name came from the 
columns and the fleeting resemblance to the real Executive Mansion.

The Rogers' property then ran over to the Bloomingdale Road just south of the Downes Boulevard Hotel at 103rd and then followed the western edge of the Clendening Lane up to the south side of 105th street between 9th and 10th Avenues.  Then over to 8th Avenue and up to 107th street where the boundary ran a non - conforming to the grid straight line over to Riverside.  Big piece of land once upon a time,  but it was starting to shrink.

The building in the left background is referred to as "The Ward School" on the map above.  The white fence surrounding it separates the school from the vacant lot, indicated on the map, just uptown of the school.  So given the location of the houses and the position of the school on the map, we can say that this photo, probably taken from the Gorham House, is looking southwest towards 104th street.  What appears to be a road in the foreground, running at an odd angle, is the route of the Croton Aqueduct.  The houses in the background above the Knapp house are on 10th Avenue.  To the right of the cupola on the roof of the Knapp house, off in the distance is what I am fairly certain is the house that once stood on the site occupied by 895 West End Avenue.  In a little over 20 years, this area will be unrecognizable.  I always wondered if they removed the bodies from the "Burying Ground" on 110th Street . . . I have always felt a chill there.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

This is the end . . . does this really need to happen?

 Streit's Matzo's back in a funkier era.  And soon it will join the ranks of the "used - to - be's".

When I was at P.S. 145 on the upper west side back in the late '60's, a forward thinking teacher took us on a tour of the Streit's Matzo factory.  Yes, they really gave tours of this place.  Although they probably had tried it before and did not realize it, half the kids didn't know what a matzo was but all where intrigued and moved by this tour.  Why? The very simple theme of immigration.  It was the theme about immigrants, coming here from wherever, and putting down roots. They were able to do this, build a life, because of the steady employment offered to the newly arrived.  One group after another, and not just in matzo factories but this was the one field trip that hit home with so many of my classmates, in a great many cases the first English speakers in a household.  They saw themselves, their parents, on this tour.  The tour spoke volumes to them, more history that could ever be gotten out of a book - because they felt it.  This is a loss on so many levels, the educational value alone is worth more than what ever glass and steal box will net a developer.  Not to mention how many of us grew up with a box of this on the table at Passover and Rosh Hashanah?  When will this city learn?  Maybe never but I still love this dirty town. 

Click here for more of the story, a trailer for a documentary and more pictures.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another One Bites the Dust - Another Slaughtered Lamb, Another McElfatrick Disappers Into Oblivion

Back In August of 2013 I put up a piece about a theater.  It was announced that yet another piece of our puzzle, mosaic, history or whatever you want to call it was going to go.  The once upon a time Columbia Theater at 47th and 7th was going to join the list of "used to be".  We knew this place as the Embassy 2, 3, and 4.  It's last incarnation was an over sized souvenir store - never had I seen so many Statue of Liberty(s) or Empire State Buildings in one place. 

The Columbia Burlesque was designed by William McElfatrick, one of the most prolific theater architects of the late 19th through the early 20th centuries. Sort of Thomas Lamb of his day.  A re-design of the theater was carried out by Thomas Lamb when the Columbia became known as Loew's Mayfair.
We knew this place as the Embassy 2, 3, and 4.  It's last incarnation was an over sized souvenir store - never had I seen so many Statue of Liberty(s) or Empire State Buildings in one place.

The theater had several names over the years, including The DeMille, like in Cecil B. Amongst the big New York City premiers was one of the most famous movies ever made.  In June of 1960, with the famous "No one will be admitted after the start of the picture" policy, Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho opened.

I was walking by the demolition site the night before Thanksgiving and I decided to investigate. I found a small hole in the wall.  Aren't we lucky to be living in an age where most of us have a camera at all times?  The souvenir store did not use the entire space.  What we are looking at, I believe, is the downstage edge of the stage and where the orchestra pit would have been and the orchestra section of seating would have begun.  I tried to get in there the next day but there was no one there on Black Friday. However, I knew that with the help of the iPhoto, I would get something usable.

I pointed my phone as best I could to the left so I could get what I believe is the stage.  It is not unreasonable to think that we are looking at the stage right wing space through the proscenium opening.  Or what is left of it. That yellow machine is a small bulldozer type thing. The machine's arm (for lack of better term) is resting on what could be the proscenium arch structure and the vertical channel for the smoke pocket used with the fire curtain.

There is a bit of an incline going up to this area. Does this mean that the area with the mini bulldozer, the area I believe to have been the stage, somewhat elevated? If I ever get down there . . . but it may too late.  Goodbye Columbia Burlesque, while New York reinvents itself again, as you fade away into the memories of fewer and fewer,  along with the careers of those who tread your boards.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Riverside and Riviera Theater - An Entertainment Meca On The Upper West Side.

In 1911 William Fox, a theater owner and pioneering film producer is finishing construction of a large Vaudeville house on 96th street and Broadway. He is approached by agents of the uber - powerful
Keith Albee company - the largest Vaudeville circuit on the East Coast. They want to buy the practically finished 1710 seat Riverside Theater.  Mr. Fox says at first says no but then threatened with the loss of all Keith performers for his already established theaters, he sells.  The Riverside Theater was built for high end Vaudeville (only 2 shows per day). The great Sarah Bernhardt even played B.F. Keith’s Riverside.   On the right is the standard early 1920's program cover for the Keith circuit.  I found another east coast theater using the same art work on the program cover, the Orpheum (in Boston I believe) that was proud to be presenting Houdini live on stage. What a smart couple, all dressed up for an evening at the Riverside.  On the left is part of the program from January 22, 1923.


At the time of this programs publication composer and bandleader Julius Lenzberg was the orchestra leader at the Riverside.  This is the Riverside Orchestra, Julius is the guy with the violin.  Born January 3 1878 in Baltimore, Lenzberg began his career accompanying dancing lessons at the piano. By 1903, with a couple of published compositions to his credit, he got himself married and moved to New York City, eventually settling in Queens.  Thus began a long stint serving as orchestra leader at various vaudeville houses in Manhattan and in the summer, he led a band out on Long Island. 
In 1919, Lenzberg served as director of the George White Scandals of 1919 and also led the house band at the Riverside Theater in New York. That year, Lenzberg  and the Riverside Orchestra began to make records for Edison, and though Lenzberg's recording activity ended in 1922, he was prolific, ultimately producing more than 50 sides for Edison.  Lenzberg continued to lead a band and appear on radio once it emerged, into the 1930s, but the depression knocked him out of the performing end of the business. By the last time Lenzberg is heard from in the early 1940s, he was working as a booking agent.  He passed away in April 1956.  I recently received an email from a gentleman who worked at the theater through out the 1940's and 1950's.  Among the tales of the Riverside and Riviera next door, he wrote that legendary Hollywood composer, the man who gave us the soundtrack to Gone With The Wind, Max Steiner, had also served for a time as the conductor of the Riverside Theatre Orchestra.  

Not long after giving up the Riverside Theatre, Mr. Fox buys the lots next door and builds the Riviera Theatre.  This is obviously a very early in it's life picture of the original entrance to the Riviera.  The Riviera was built as a legit house, and was on the subway circuit. What is the "Subway Circuit"?  I will tell you.  A show played its 300 or so performances downtown on Broadway then moved to a neighborhood theater before going on the road. This was good, runs of shows did not have go on forever, or 25 plus years.  There was another show waiting in the wings.  Records in the Shubert Archives indicate that from 1918 to 1931, the Shubert’s had a profit-sharing contract with Fox. The Riviera became the Shubert Riviera in 1923. In one of her first Broadway appearances, Bette Davis came through the Riviera in a show that had been on the road. In this case the road was a railroad.   

A theater located at 96th and Broadway was ideally situated with a rail link two blocks west. A vaudeville show often traveled as a package, and by train. Up until recently, theatrical scenery flats were built to fit into railroad boxcars. Prior to the great depression and the WPA, 96th street ended at the Hudson River. There was no Westside highway. Access to the river and the New York Central freight line was as simple as crossing a street. The tracks under Riverside Park, built along what was the natural edge of Manhattan (the rest of the park and highway is landfill) have been there since the early railroad days of a pre-civil war New York. There had even been a passenger stop (not a station) at Stryker's Bay (96th street) for many years just before and after the civil war. During the Great Depression, the Westside Improvement created the rest of Riverside park, the highway and covered over the tracks, thanks to Robert Moses and his persuasiveness with the WPA.

This is 96th street prior to the Westside Improvement.  The top picture is looking south, the building in the background is 230 Riverside Drive at 95th street and the kids crossing the tracks are really old now.  The third rail in the foreground is the same used today on the Metro North railroad (the LIRR and the NYC subway system use a different type).

This is looking north from just south of 96th street. The train in the background is being pulled by an electric locomotive. Curiously, there is a passenger car at the back end. Passenger service on that part of the Hudson Line had ended decades earlier.  It was not unusual to see a passenger car as part of the consist of a freight train.  A very bad accident along this line in the mid 1960's involving a head on collision near 147th street, a photograph from the New York Times does show a passenger car amongst the wreckage.  They were used for the crew.

These are the original house right boxes in the Riverside Theatre. 

Early in the life of the Riverside. This photograph has been mislabeled as The Regent Theater, which still stands today as The First Corinthian Baptist Church on 116th and 7th Avenue.  The architect of the Regent, Riverside and Riviera is the same person.

The lobby leading into the Riverside. On the right that appears to be an elevator.  This elevator has a lock on it, but is it to keep people from going into or coming out of the elevator?  There were two floors above the lobby in what was called a "taxpayer" structure.  The rental revenue collected on the retail establishments, the much missed Chess City for example, would defray the costs of taxes on the land and structure. So the elevator must have served those upper floors, bringing up ping pong tables and countless number of ping pong balls. 

The Dome over the Riverside auditorium. Probably not the original chandelier.

The mural in the soundboard, above the proscenium appears to be Columbus discovering America (maybe New York - how "urbocentric").

Detail from the ceiling of the Riverside Theatre. It appears to be Christopher Columbus asking for financing for his voyage west. 

Toward the stage at the Riverside from house right balcony.  As a vaudeville house, the Riverside only presented high class acts and originally only 2 shows a day.  Before opera singer Rosa Ponselle was Rosa Ponselle, she was part of a vaudeville act called The Italian Girls - Carmella and Rosa Ponzillo.  They appeared as one of 9 acts at the Riverside beginning the week of September 3 1917.  Belle Baker "Incomparable Delineator of Character Songs" was the headliner, the Italian Girls were second billed.  Although she was proud to have played The Palace and did not talk too much about her life in vaudeville, Rosa Ponzillo's appearance at the Riverside was the one she did. It was here that she was heard by voice teacher / agent William Thorner and her path to the Metropolitan Opera, divaness and a less ethnic last name began.   

Balcony, house left.  Everyone who was anyone in vaudeville went through The Riverside. Bert Lahr, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, The Marx Brothers are luminaries among the names of those who played the Riverside.  Even more, whose careers began and ended in vaudeville, people whose stardom has been lost to the ages and dusty booking ledgers, for a shining moment tread the boards of the Riverside stage.

 From the Stage towards house right.

Detail of the proscenium at the Riverside.

Both houses underwent renovations in the 1950's. It was at this time that the Skouras Brothers owned the theaters.

The brothers Skouras started in St. Louis with distribution and exhibition as their business and eventually went into production. Spyros Skouras became president of 20th Century Fox in 1942 and was instrumental in introducing Cinemascope. With this new wide screen process came the removal of boxes in many theaters across the country. Somewhere there is a pile of old discarded boxes.

 The Skouras brothers were notorious "modernizers". As you can see in these photos, there are not only no more boxes but no more orchestra pits as well. Very often orchestra pits were covered over to add an extra row or two of seats. In some cases, the Mighty Wurlitzer (or similar organ) would be left on it's lift, at the basement level, covered over by concrete slabs. The organ for the Riverside Theatre was a Wurlitzer with a manufactured date of August 8, 1928.  I am not sure what happened to it or where it ended up. 


The Riviera was built with a revenue generating office building and another theater above the Riviera designed for this new fangled motion picture thing, the 1579 seat Japanese Gardens. In part, due to it’s heavy Japanese motif, this theater closed after “The Day That Shall Live In Infamy”. The other reason that this theater probably closed in early 1942 was that the fire escapes on the south side of the building went back into the building. Accessible by one staircase and two elevators, this was a tragedy in formation.

 Early in the life of the Riviera.  According to the New York chapter of the Theater Organ Society of America, there had been an organ installed in the Riviera Theatre. It was built in 1917 by M.P. Möller of Hagerstown, Md. and was one of the firm's standard theatre organ models having three manuals and 16 ranks.  The Riviera had been built for legit theater, it was not unusual for such a house to have an organ installed. 

 Just behind the orchestra section. Notice the dirt around the vents in the ceiling. Normally, none of this would have been visible but because it was picture day, the theater were brighter than usual and we can see more.  I do not remember these theaters being so brightly lit.  I do remember the perpetually closed balconies.  
The Shuberts ended their relationship with the Riviera in the late 1920's. During the 1931 and 1932 seasons, the Chamberlain Brown players called the Riviera home.  A former actor turned agent and producer, Chamberlain Brown claimed to have discovered Clark Gable, Helen Hayes, Alfred Lunt, Rudolph Valentino, Leslie Howard, Jeannette MacDonald, Jack Haley, Don Ameche, Preston Foster, Robert Walker, Glenda Farrell, Carlotta Monterey (eventually Mrs Eugene O'Neill), Conrad Nagel, Tallulah Bankhead, Helen Menken (the first Mrs. Humphrey Bogart), Harry K. Morton, Nita Naldi and many others. The Brown agency represented such theater notables as John Carradine, Mrs. Leslie Carter, Lon Chaney, Jr., Ruth Chatterton, Constance Collier, Glenda Farrell, Dorothy Gish, Hal Holbrook, Miriam Hopkins, Otto Kruger, Fritzi Scheff, Spencer Tracy, and Tom Ewell (once an agency employee) among others.

The screen is lit quite possibly by the projector and by footlights. I have often wondered if the footlights were original.  The red curtains cover the damage done by the removal of the boxes.  In 1931, Jean Arthur had returned from Hollywood.  Her success in the pictures would be greater after her return to the New York Stage.  By this point, the Riviera was home to the company run by   Chamberlain Brown.  He was sufficiently impressed with her work that he cast her a production of Lysistrata that opened in January of 1932.  In the cast, a relatively unknown Sidney Greenstreet.   In Febrary of 1932 Mr. Brown presented Eugene O'Neill's "Strange Interlude" which will be followed by the Theater Guild Success "Elizabeth the Queen".

This is the mural on the sound board above the proscenium arch. Due to the terrible lighting it is hard to make out what it represents in this picture.
On March 9th 1932, a review appeared in the Columbia Spectator: "A talented actress named Kathryn Civney made her New York debut in "The Vinegar Tree" at the Riviera Theatre last Monday night and proceeded to make the audience forget that Mary Boland had ever had Gotham chuckling uproariously at her interpretation of the leading role in "The Vinegar Tree" last season".  Other companies, as well as dance companies, used the theater during this era.  Eventually economics would give way and the Riviera would become a the movie house we all knew and loved.

 Looking towards house right from the house left balcony.  The red curtains cover the damage done by the removal of the boxes.  Both houses underwent renovations in the 1950's when the Skouras Brothers owned the theaters.

Once there were boxes  . . .  I like this picture. It is amazing how intact the Riviera seems to be given it will soon be gone.

When it announced that a developer was going to tear down the theaters and put up a 30 story apartment tower (consisting of only studios and one bedrooms) I was devastated. They only managed to knock a hole in the side of the Riverside before running out of money. It was almost shocking to see the red velvet curtain hanging in shreds behind the now battered proscenium arch. The enormous balcony was collapsing. 

Then the whole thing did collapse, out onto 96th street (several parked cars were crushed) and inward. The fire and police departments searched and dug for days, looking for crushed junkies that supposedly lived in the shell of the Riverside. I remember seeing a hysterical woman on the news screaming that her daughter with a drug problem was in there. No bodies were found, at that time anyway.

This is an un - enhanced picture taken as the Riviera is beginning it's final fade out.  The image is from a slide and once I scanned them into my iPhoto, I became convinced that there was more to the pictures than what I was seeing.  The theaters were photographed as discussion about their demise was bandied about.  Various community groups wanted space within the Riviera Building. Alexanders had expressed a great deal of interest in the site for a new store, apartment tower and new single screen theater.  Gimbel's had offered pretty much the same deal.  However, neighborhood opposition to creating an overwhelmingly commercial area, at 96th and Broadway, scaled back the development to a 30 story tower of studios and one bedrooms (as the developer said - to meet the need of an ever growing swinging singles segment of society since the city was attracting a younger, less family oriented population and families were moving to the suburbs - or so the developer believed). However, there were cries about preservation which fell on deaf ears.

This is a digitally enhanced picture.  The wood frame structure on the stage was probably for the movie screen. The speaker horns are clearly visible behind the wooden frame. Obviously, demolition has begun, the lighting is quite possibly just natural light.

The mural on the sound board appears to be one of those life at Versailles pastoral images. Very Rococo. This mural, along with the murals in the Riverside, was probably not saved. This was in the pre-Urban Archeology days and nothing was saved or recycled.  It kills me that the red velvet curtains at both theaters where still hanging during demolition.

Looking to house right, light is coming on to the stage from 97th street.

House right about to be house no more. So much original detail that survived the decades was about to be reduced to rubble only to be put into a landfill some where.

This is an un-enhanced view of the stage.  I do not believe that these photos were taken by the photographer of the "before" pictures. He was just an enthusiastic amateur theater historian, as far as I can tell, and the condition of the Riviera looks precarious.

Un-enhanced view of the sound board mural.  The architect of both theaters was the great Thomas Lamb. Before calling himself an architect, Mr. Lamb had served as a building inspector for the City of New York. He had gotten himself into Cooper Union where he majored in mechanical drawings and acoustics.  In the un-miked world he designed for, he needed to have a complete understanding of acoustics.  Somebody had to sing over an orchestra to a 1700 seat house and the structure had to help.

The projection booth, like the one at the Hamilton Theater on 146th street were not original to the structure and were added later.

In case you were wondering how a balcony was constructed . . .

 This is the south wall of the Riviera Theater and the Riviera Building after the collapse and demolition of the Riverside Theater. I remember thinking, as a small child, that the balcony for the Riviera must be incredibly high, not knowing that there was a long closed theater up there.

I read a story written by the man who took the "before"photos.  His real quest that day was to not only photograph these two theaters but also to photograph the Japanese Gardens above the Riviera.  The two elevators that went up there were had been out of commission for years. The stair case that went up to the Gardens from the elevator lobby had been sealed off long ago. According to the floor plans for the Riviera Building, there were no connections between the theaters and the office building. The only way they found to get into the Japanese Gardens was through 5 floors of Riviera dressing rooms, described as dark, dank and musty.

 This is the only picture of the Japanese Gardens that I have found so far.

 In an earlier post, I cryptically stated that after the Riverside collapsed and emergency personnel had dug through the debris for days, that no bodies were found - at that time.  The two theaters were built a year apart, the Riverside (which had a longer construction period) in opening in 1912 and The Riviera in 1913, and were entirely separate buildings. There were connections made in the basement at some point between the two buildings.  It was during the demolition of the Riviera that, according to local legend and lore, two bodies were found in what was left of a connector passage between the still standing Riviera and the no longer with us Riverside.

The last of the Riviera. The derelict Riviera Theater and Riviera building became a haven for the fringes of society.  After much complaining from locals, demolition on the Riviera began a few years after the collapse of the Riverside. "We will be judged not by what we have built, but by what we have destroyed" said the New York Times in an editorial about the destruction of the old Pennsylvania Station.  How sad and true.  The site, which almost played host to Gimbel's West, was a garden for many years. When the building that eventually went up on the site was built, the displaced garden moved to Riverside Park as is called the Community Garden.  The site is now home to one of the least attractive buildings on the upper west side.  

 What was once an elegant entertainment complex, a mecca that could seat almost 5000 at any given moment was certainly a gift.  The entire complex was designed by Thomas Lamb, whose career is slowly being obliterated in the name of progress.