Yiddish Theater and The National on East Houston [Video]
Three years ago, PBS aired The Jewish Americans, a three-part documentary about the history of Jews in America, narrated by famed downtown actor Liev Schreiber. We hadn’t seen it since then, but were reminded recently of one small snippet which delves into the importance of Yiddish Theater. There isn’t too much about the Lower East Side per se, but there are some cool photos (and even video!) of the iconic National Theatre at 111-117 East Houston Street.
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[National Theatre in 1930; Photo Credit: NYPL]
According to Cinema Treasures, the National Theatre was designed by Thomas W. Lamb as a “piggy-back” establishment. The lower level housed the larger crowd, at 1,900, and was the base of operations for Thomashefsky and Adler’s Yiddish Theatre; upstairs was the Crown Theatre which had a seating capacity of 963. Both rooms featured Yiddish and burlesque entertainment. The National officially opened on May 6, 1913 at the southwest corner of East Houston and Chrystie Street, which is now a glorious Subway restaurant and Whole Foods combination.
The building was closed in 1941, but was later reopened as side-by-side movie houses known as the National Theatre and Roosevelt Theatre. Both screens closed in 1951 and would remain dormant until their demolition in 1959.