Moss and Brill’s Hamilton Theatre opened on January 23, 1913, in Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights neighborhood. Famed theater architect Thomas W. Lamb was commissioned to design the building by vaudeville operator Benjamin S. Moss and theater developer Solomon Bril. Lamb designed the Hamilton in the Renaissance Revival style, incorporating a terracotta façade. On November 26, 1913, a dance hall opened on the roof of the Hamilton with accommodations for 1,500 patrons.
In 1915, Brill sold his half of the Hamilton to Moss; the theater was then renamed B.S. Moss’s Hamilton Theatre. A Welte & Sons two manual theater organ was installed in 1915 but was replaced by a three-manual M.P. Moller Opus 2238 a few years later. In early September 1920, Moss’s theater chain was taken over by B.F. Keith’s — who later formed the Keith-Albee theater circuit — to form the Greater New York Vaudeville Theaters Corporation. This resulted in another name change for the theater to the B.F Keith’s Hamilton Theater.
The Hamilton closed for a few months in the summer of 1919 for some renovation work. It reopened in early September 1919. A permanent orchestra was added at the same time. With the decline of vaudeville, Moss retired and sold the theater in 1928 to the newly formed Radio-Keith-Orpheum (also known as RKO Pictures). The Hamilton was then converted into a motion picture theater. In early May 1938, film producer B.A. Rolfe previewed “Vode-Vision” at the Hamilton. “Vode-Vision” was a five-act vaudeville bill using a musical score and cues recorded on film. It was developed as a possible solution to the high costs of producing a live stage show. On June 14, 1946, the movie “Beware” had its world premiere at the RKO Hamilton.
The Hamilton closed in early March 1965 after showing the film “None but the Brave,” directed by and starring Frank Sinatra. After its partial closure, the auditorium was used as a sports arena and a disco. In 1965 the building was purchased by a church and was later sold in the mid-1990s. The lobby was converted into a retail space and separated from the auditorium, which was last used as a warehouse for a beer and liquor wholesaler. The theater is currently unused.
Matt Lambros NY New York Nov 23, 2021 Architecture