5.20.2008

Walking Off the Lower East Side: A Mural, a Movie Theater, and a Question

(Note: See update following post.)

I returned to the Lower East Side this morning to explore some lingering questions and to walk areas farther to the south and east. But I also wanted to return in order to ponder something I saw a few days ago, a large mural on Ludlow Street. It's on the east side of the street between Hester and Canal.

I'm taken with it on an aesthetic level - I think it's beautiful, but I can't seem to find any information about it. What are we looking at? Several orange-red spotlights, originating from an opening on the fire escape half-way up, beam out to project several scenes of figures in various activities. In the top spot, a teacher stands behind rows of seated children. She's beside a movie projector, so we can assume, of course, that they're watching a movie. Below her, a teacher is leaning over a young girl to help her run a sewing machine. In another spotlight, an adult stands with a child and points at something in the distance. In fact, I'm pretty sure all of these scenes are about teaching. The largest figure below is of a young woman, framed in a doorway or maybe on a curtained stage, holding up her right hand as if to give direction. An iron gate, and a garbage can, is to the left.

Where is this mural, again? Well, around the corner on Canal Street, at 31 Canal sits an ornate building that once was the home of the Loew's Canal Theatre. Built in 1927, it was a large movie palace with 2,279 seats. Shuttered in the late 1970s's, the theater's entrance is now an appliance store. The old Loew's Canal was a large theatre, with a sizeable orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony. Trying to piece things together, I came across a discussion about the building at the Cinema Treasures website, and it's clear back in the theater's hey-day the interior was fairly opulent in the fashion of movie houses of the era.

The mural on Ludlow Street would be on the side of the old Loew's Canal Theatre. So, why and when was it painted? Who painted it? A community group? And, deepening the mystery, the question: Is there a decaying old 1920s movie palace, with 2,279 seats, beyond the painting?

If anyone knows anything about this painting and theater, please write.

Images: mural on Ludlow, and 31 Canal by Walking Off the Big Apple. May 20, 2008.

Part of a series about the Lower East Side. See related posts.

January 11, 2010. Plans were announced to open the theatre as a community arts space. NYPost story here.

No comments: