I've had some fun exploring the background of the Gotham Theater and we've come
across enough images to sustain a page.
First, the location of the Gotham. Located on the south side of Fulton, off the corner of Alabama, in the area we now refer to as "Broadway Junction". It is the building marked "Casino". In those days Casinos were not gambling houses but entertainment halls. It started life as William Bennett's Casino. Bennett is a colorful character; he is a prominent citizen yet he is the subject of lawsuits for philandering, he keeps the Casino open on Sundays to the dismay of religious leaders, and is accused of hiring thugs to ward off investigators. The first cornerstone is laid in November 1889.
|Gotham Theater,East New York, Brooklyn 1922|
This NYPLD image has created some confusion. It claims it shows the "Car barn" used by the Cypress Hills Trolley Company that was converted into the Gotham. In fact, we know the Gotham was built from scratch in 1890. On the first attempt at construction, the building collapses on January 8, 1890. Building inspector Kennedy provided a report stating the workmanship was not at fault, but I found it interesting that Kennedy was at the cornerstone ceremony in November. Bennett's Casino is completed by June and opens June 30, 1890.
|Gotham Theater and Mullers Hotel, East New York|
Dated: 1912 Maker:P. Miller Status:Own (BG)
The hotel appears on the 1893 Plat maps so it appears to have been constructed around the same time as Bennett's Casino. The casino has bowling alleys in the basement , a theater on the first floor and a billiards room above it. The building had its own dynamos to power all the illumination required. Bennett manages to keep it open on Sundays by holding "sacred songs" concerts, a ploy used by many of the casinos at that time.
|Gotham Theater and East New York Junction|
Dated: 1914 Maker:P. Miller Status:Own (RG)
A great early shot in this P. Miller card; the horsedrawn carts, the elevated train, the street trolley all in great detail. It should be noted that the Casino had a circular turret on the roof , perhaps similar to the one on the hotel. Bennett's casino burns down on Sept. 9, 1893. I did not find any reports that suspected arson in any form.
|East New York Junction, Brooklyn|
Dated: 1910 Maker:Unknown Status:Need
Manhattan Junction, East New York
Maker:Art Post Card and Novelty Co. Dated: 1916 Status: Own (BG)
Two postcards of Broadway Junction; its interesting that the 1910 card appears to show a more modern train on the elevated. The Casino's next life is as the Brooklyn Music Hall; after extensive repairs it opens in February of 1896. At this point it is owned by Otto Huber. It is considered a vaudeville house. I don't have much history on the hotel; at some point it becomes the Gotham Hotel and it is still standing.
|Gotham Theater, East New York, Brooklyn|
Dated: 1916 Maker:Art Postcard and Novelty Co. Status:Own(BG)
The Brooklyn Music Hall struggles economically, and in 1901 it becomes the Gotham Theater. It is meant to cater more to families; smoking is banned in the theater and the lobby. In 1907 Mae West performs here as a child actor in Hal Clarendon's Stock Theater company. East of the hotel the Gotham Lanes open; I presume the original lanes in the Casino were destroyed in the fire. My Uncle worked as a pinsetter in the lanes in the 1930s. .
|Gotham Theater, East New York, Brooklyn|
Dated: 1907 Maker:Seyfarth Status:Need
Nice hand-colored Seyfrth postcard. .
|Gotham Theater, East New York, Brooklyn, 1911|
This image comes out of a 1911 magazine advertisement. Percy G. Williams owned a chain of theaters under the Orpheum Company umbrella. The Bushwick, the Greenpoint, the Orpheum, and the Crescent were all owned by the same company and advertised "Clean Shows in Clean Houses".
|The Gotham had switched to silent movies in the 1920s, closed in 1930, and made one attempt to reopen in 1932, presumably wired for sound. The theater closed in 1934. That information comes from the Cinema Treasures site. This November 22, 1935 article from the Brooklyn Eagle pinpoints its demolition.|
|This is how the corner appeared in 1941 after demolition. Note also the turret is gone from the hotel.|
|Neil Sullivan supplied this 2005 shot of Broadway Junction. I have a CO from 1961 for the site as an empty lot to display used cars so it seems nothing was ever built to replace it, and from what I can tell it is still displaying used cars today. The hotel is still standing.|
|Thanks to Tom Hammond who snapped a picture of the Imperial Hotel, constructed in 2007 on the site of the old Gotham Theater.|
|The following articles can be found at the Brooklyn Eagle Online site|
November 29, 1889 - "A New Casino"
July 1, 1890 - "A Concert Hall that Twenty-Six Warders Will Like"
January 11, 1891- "William J. Bennett sued for $50,000"
March 25, 1891 -"Constable Doscher severely beaten at Bennett's Casino"
September 10, 1893-"Firemen Rescue Actresses"
February 17, 1896 "Will Open Tonight"
September 1, 1901 "Brooklyn Music Hall Gone"