Day 1262

The old Valencia Theater

June 14th, 2015

Standing here on Jamaica Avenue in Jamaica, Queens, is the former Valencia Theater, the first of the five spectacular "Wonder Theaters" opened by Loew's in the New York City area in 1929-30. (We've previously seen the other three Wonder Theaters in NYC: the Paradise in the Bronx, the Kings in Brooklyn, and the 175th Street in Manhattan. The fifth theater, the Jersey, is located in Jersey City.)

According to David Dunlap of the NY Times:

A "Spanish patio garden in gay regalia for a moonlit festival," as early publicity releases described it, the Valencia was an atmospheric theater, designed by John Eberson, in which 3,500 moviegoers at a time found themselves seated under a blue night sky filled with twinkling stars and drifting clouds. [The clouds were projected onto the ceiling.]

Rising to the sky was a Spanish village, or rather a Spanish village as envisioned by an Austrian-born architect working in the Baroque Churrigueresque style from an office in Chicago to satisfy Hollywood tastes. Around the auditorium a half-dozen diminutive structures -- a gazebo here, a loggia there -- were arrayed in cascading tiers as if set on a hillside.

That was the payoff, but the experience of the Valencia began in the gleaming lobby, where moviegoers lined up between a long colonnade and a row of scalloped balconies. From there it was into the two-story grand foyer, with a vaulted ceiling and a fish pond with tinkling fountain.
When the Valencia closed in 1977, Loew's donated the building to the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People, a Pentecostal church, which has done an outstanding job of maintaining the place over the years, as evidenced by these breathtaking photos of the interior. The Tabernacle has made a few notable alterations, however, turning the figures of nude goddesses atop the proscenium arch into robed angels, installing a massive chandelier in the auditorium, changing some of the paint colors, and displaying a collection of discarded crutches from people said to have been miraculously healed at the church.

(In case you're wondering, I took the video above during what appeared to be a bible study being held in the auditorium before the Sunday morning service.)

One Comment

  1. I took a tour here a couple of years ago and was amazed at the opulent decor.

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