The photograph above shows the entrance to the Claremont Theatre on the southeast corner of 135th Street at 3320-3338 Broadway where Thomas Edison is showing Gertrude McCoy and Bigelow Cooper in On the stroke of twelve in Manhattanville, Harlem, in New York.
The village of Manhattanville was established in 1806 in a valley at the crossroads of Bloomingdale Road and Manhattan Street (Broadway and 125th Street).
Large numbers of men, women and children leave the theater, some as many as two or three times. Delivery boys, a wagon, automobiles and a boy on roller skates pass by.
Here’s the video:
The community was the site of churches, a grade school, and Manhattan College (1853). A ferry terminus on the Hudson River, a mill, and a brewery contributed to a thriving enclave that had about five hundred residents at mid-century.
The Claremont Theater (which got its name from its owner Laemmle Claremont Cupertino) is one of the oldest structures in New York City planned specifically to exhibit motion pictures, originally called ”photoplays.” The theater opened in November 1914. Commissioned by Arlington C. Hall and Harvey M. Hall of the Wayside Realty Company for The theatre has been dedicated to the production of moving pictures. The operation represents a total investment of about $450,000, and the property has been leased for twenty-one years, it was designed in the neo-Renaissance style by Gaetano Ajello, an architect best known for apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The building has three distinct fronts, including a clipped corner façade where the auditorium’s entrance was originally located. This distinctive arrangement enhanced the theater’s visibility and increased the amount of retail space.
Get the best Harlem news in your inbox here.
The corner, consequently, received the most elaborate decorative treatment and is embellished with an elegant low relief depicting an early motion picture camera set on a tripod. In 1915 Thomas Edison produced a short film in which the theater’s entrance is prominently featured. The second floor accommodated a large restaurant and ballroom (see photo), known under such names as the Broadway-Claremont or Clarendon Restaurant, and later, the Royal Palms Ballroom and Roof Garden.
The New York Dramatic Mirror, March 17, 1915:
“The first ‘Edison Night,’ which is to be a regular feature of the Claremont Theater, Washington Heights, New York, every week, showing all of the Edison releases for the current week, was hugely indorsed by an attendance which at 8 o’clock filled the 1,400-capacity house. Many exhibitors were present to watch the idea and see all the films at one showing.”
“At the conclusion of the first evening performance the following Edison players were introduced to the applauding fans: Harry Beaumont, Bessie Learn, Robert Conness, Gertrude McCoy, Mrs. Bechtel, Robert Bower, Julian Reed, Frank McGlynn, Charles Sutton, Andy Clark, Mrs. Erskine, Frank A. Lyon, Harry Eytinge, Harry Linson, John Sturgeon, and director Ashley Miller.”
“The artists then partook of the feast prepared for them by Manager Dollinger in an adjoining ballroom, after which dancing was enjoyed, the players later meeting the theatre patrons in the lobby.”
There was a Wurlitzer organ installation done just prior to opening and then it was repossessed by Wurlitzer in 1916. That organ was eventually shipped to a theater in Chicago and is now in a seminary somewhere in Illinois and is still playable.
Until the early years of the Depression, area residents gathered here to eat, drink, and dance. Beginning in the late 1920s, the storefronts were leased to automobile-related businesses and by 1933 the theater closed and the interior was converted to an automobile showroom.
Image credit: 1) Image from the Thomas Edison video. 2) Above drawing and interior photograph from The World’s Greatest Achievement in Music for Theatres, 1916, reprinted by Vestal Press, 1964, part of the Theatre Talks LLC collection. 3) Claremont Theatre And Restaurant In Edison Film Harlem.