Hackensack, NJ Community Message Boards

General Category => Hackensack History => Topic started by: Editor on August 21, 2012, 04:22:57 PM

Title: Theaters of the Past
Post by: Editor on August 21, 2012, 04:22:57 PM
From George Scudder's materials:


Hackensack has always been considered the religious, cultural and business center of
northern New Jersey and that is why in 1907, the village of Hackensack was named the
county seat of Bergen. This article deals with the places of entertainment that are a part
of Hackensack's history.

Prior to 1900 there were only a few large buildings where people could gather for town
meetings, lectures or concerts. Affairs were held outside in fair weather, in the park or
under huge tents much like the circus uses today. Schools did not have any auditoriums
or gymnasiums and theaters were' unknown at that time. Churches were generally the
places where large groups could gather. So, it was in churches that many affairs, such as
graduations were held.

Before 1900 and the advent of motion pictures, there were places in Hackensack where
many prominent people performed and lectured. Among them were Anderson Hall,
located on Main and Passaic Streets; Washington Institute on Main and Warren Streets;
the Opera House, forerunner of the Armory on State Street; and Irving Hall, Main and
Mercer Streets. Famous writers Horace Greely and Mark Twain visited, and governors
as well as Presidents Grant, Wilson and Taft campaigned in these buildings which were
also used for meetings of the town's fraternal organizations and civic, groups as well as
for elections and debates.

Following the invention of motion pictures by Thomas Edison in 189 1, the Kinetograph
camera and Kinetoscope projector were perfected. This projector was later improved by
the Vitascope projector, which showed pictures on the wall and was first used in 1896 in
the New York Music Hall. In 1903 the first theater was opened in Los Angeles and
showed Edison's first pictures, "The Great Train Robbery" and "American Fireman", both
short pictures and made in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Thousands of people were eager to pay
to see these pictures and as a result, theaters sprang up all over the country. In most
cases, these moving picture houses were known as "Nickelodeons", a combination of the
cost of admission, usually a nickel and the Greek work meaning place of entertainment.
Until 1926 these were silent films shown to the accompaniment of a pianist to set the

The first theater of record in Hackensack was in 1907 and called the Edisonia. The ad
read as follows: "Hackensack's only permanent place of amusement, 55 Main Street.
Programme is changed daily - Admission 10c - Open daily except Sunday at 6:45 PM.
Matinee on Saturday at 2:45 PM. Scenes of travel mystery, drama and comedy - forty
minutes of delightful entertainment. Later, other small moving picture theaters
appeared, the Hudson on Hudson Street; the Royale on Main and Bergen Streets; and the
Bijou at about 170 Main Street, where we used to go for six cents. Another small theater
was the Crown located on Anderson Street just east of the railroad.

The most outstanding theater that existed in Bergen County was the Lyric on the west
side of Main Street just south of Mercer. In addition to motion pictures, the Lyric
featured five acts of top rate vaudeville and on Saturday evenings the lines were four
abreast up main Street and then around the comer on Mercer Street. The Lyric opened on
Saturday evening June 30, 1913. It was a very modern theater, very elaborate and fancy.
Box seating was arranged along both sidewalls, with thick carpeting, ornate chandeliers,
and elaborately decorated ceilings. The Lyric had a great history until the demise of
vaudeville and the depression days of the "30's". For many years after the vaudeville
closed, the theater had dramatic plays each week which were of excellent caliber and
were performed by some well-known actors and actresses of that time.

In about 1930, the Eureka opened. It was located on the north side of Banta Place. It
featured talking pictures and had a balcony, which until now only vaudeville houses had.
Next came the Oritani on Main Street just south of Berry Street, noted for its beautiful
organ similar to those in large New York theaters. The Oritani did so well and drew so many
people from all over Bergen County, that the Fox was built directly across the
street just a few years later.

There may have been others in the years between 1908 and 1930 but the only other spot I
can recall was a small storefront type'place on Vreeland Avenue, where movies would be
shown to the neighborhood kids. This place was known as "Fat Joe's".

It would be interesting to know if there were any more that I overlooked.
Title: Re: Theaters of the Past
Post by: Editor on February 23, 2016, 10:03:54 AM
This ghost sign just revealed itself on Banta Place, near where the Lyric Theater used to be.
Title: Re: Theaters of the Past
Post by: BLeafe on February 23, 2016, 01:23:44 PM
I think the Lyric Silk Shop on Banta may be a subsequent location after the Main St location I found on a sponsor page in a 1958 Teaneck High School yearbook (below - I couldn't resist including a few of the quaint school clubs of the day, including some almost headless bowlers in the back row).

I say "subsequent location", because "Decorators" or "Decorating" is not mentioned in the ad, but it shows up on the Banta sign and is also mentioned here - https://profiles.google.com/101432726282550576366/about - in connection with a woman who was still alive in 2012: Lorraine Glixon: "owner-operator, Lyric Silk Shop-Novelty Decorators, Hackensack, N.J." (no ownership dates were given).

Is there any known connection between the theater and the silk shop? I wonder if the shop's "Lyric" script might have been borrowed from the theater, but I can't find any images to support that. Are there any known photos of the theater's exterior?

Title: Finally - a picture of the Lyric Theater on Main St
Post by: BLeafe on June 01, 2016, 07:55:11 PM
Just south of Mercer on the west side of Main St


Title: Re: Theaters of the Past
Post by: Editor on May 08, 2019, 11:22:25 AM
This was sent to me for posting.  Looks like a letter of recommendation.  Click to enlarge. Anyone care to transcribe it?

Here's what's where the Crown Theater used to be: https://goo.gl/maps/7eJ6m2N17997qZqy7

(Thanks Lou!)