Montauk Theatre (New Montauk, Col. Sinn's Montauk, Werba’s Brooklyn Theater, Crescent Theatre, Triangle Theatre, Billy Minsky Brooklyn Burlesque theatre)
1905 Livingston Street / Brooklyn, NY
The New Montauk theater in Brooklyn at Livingston Street and Hanover Place.
Now playing: Sam Bernard as Schmaltz in the vaudeville comedy "The Rollicking Girl."
Detroit Publishing Co. glass negative.
Much of this information - including the article from Harpers Weekly - came to
me courtesy of a wonderful theatre historian, Mr. William Hooper; a gentleman and a scholar.
There are also kudos due to the Cinema Treasures (http://cinematreasures.org/theater/3979/) fans,
who are dedicated and well-informed enough to make the term "fan" a mark of distinction. My thanks.
This theater has a long involved history. It started life in 1895 as a legitimate theater called the New Montauk Theatre,
designed by the architectural firm of T.B. McElfatrick & Sons. The original seating capacity was 1,750.
Shortly after being built, it was threatened by the construction of the Flatbush Avenue Extension.
The decision to move it seemed more cost effective than demolition, so in 1907, the 8500 ton theater
was rolled several hundred feet to the Extension and Fulton Street (precursor of the Empire rolling
down 42nd Street).
The following is fromHarper's Weekly, apparently page 1354 of the August 14, 1907 issue:
(Notice the name at this time was "Col. Sinn's Montauk Theatre")
The Interior of the Theatre,
showing the Steel Rods threaded through the Walls to prevent
The Structure, which weighs
8000 Tons, jacked up and ready to be swung about to the new Foundations in
The big Building being pushed
along the Rails with Screw-jacks braced against the chain-anchored Beam in
ADVENTURES OF A BROOKLYN THEATRE
THE REMARKABLE ENGINEERING
FEAT OF MOVING THE MONTAUK THEATRE IN BROOKLYN FORY-FIVE FEET
BACKWARD FROM ITS FOUNDATIONS, TURN IT HALF AROUND, AND THEN SLIDE
IT AT A RIGHT ANGLE SIXTY-FIVE FEET MORE TO FRONT ON ANOTHER
STREET, HAS NOT ONLY AROUSED THE INTEREST OF ENGINEERS AND
ARCHITECTS, BUT VIVIDLY RECALLED THE STRANGE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH
PREFACED THE FEAT. BRIEFLY, IN ORDER TO EXTEND AN
AVENUE THE CITY PURCHASED THE BUILDING AND SITE AT A VALUATION OF
$230,000 FOR THE STRUCTURE ALONE. THEN THE BUILDING WAS BOUGHT FOR
$11,500 BY A COMPANY, THE VICE-PRESIDENT OF WHICH WAS TREASURER OF
THE THEATRE. THE PRICE THE CITY PAID FOR THE PROPERTY
WAS THE SUBJECT OF MUCH CRITICAL COMMENT. THE COST OF
THE MOVING WAS $75,000, WHICH, WITH THE PURCHASE PRICE, GAVE THE
COMPANY A $230,000 BUILDING FOR
In August 1907, the theatre (minus its Fulton Street lobby) was moved back to the Extension. Sporting a new address and a
new facade it becomes the Crescent under Percy Williams. (Percy Williams was one of the kingpins of vaudeville. When he
died in 1923, Williams left $3 million and his 30-acre estate in East Islip, Long Island, to the Actors' Fund to create a haven
for aged and indigent performers.)
The theatre opens as a stock theatre on September 5, 1908 with David Belasco's "Rose of the Rancho" at:
409 Flatbush Avenue Ext.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
In 1912, Williams sells to Keith's. After major alterations in 1915, it becomes known as the Triangle Theatre from 1915-17
(another Triangle theatre can be found on 4th Street and 5th Avenue in Park Slope.), featuring films produced by that company.
For those two years it was the first-run Brooklyn showcase for releases from Triangle Films.
After that, it reverted to the name of Crescent, with Shubert stage plays.
In 1923, producer Louis Werba took over and ran a public contest to re-name the theatre.
The winning entry was the highly original Brooklyn Theatre.
After two years it reverted back to plays and once again became the Crescent. The Shuberts took over in December 1919.
(Fanny Brice was one of the many stars who appeared there.)
The old theatre still proved unsuccessful. In 1923 plans were announced to convert it into a Public market. Enter Lous Werba and
it becomes Werba's Brooklyn Theatre. He presents farces, comedies and musicals (all described as second class).
The days as Brooklyn's dramatic temple are over. In the early 30s it becomes Billy Minsky Brooklyn Burlesque theatre. After Minsky's
license was revoked at the end of the decade, a few film shows kept the old theatre open briefly.
Its final transformation - into a parking lot - occured in 1940.
Programs available from this theatre:
The Servant in the House (1909 )
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