Thursday, December 04, 2008
I'm pumping out stale stories this week, but sometimes I find myself looking at something that's just too interesting to leave undocumented, even if I know that this very feature of the sight means that others have already done so. This case is no different: the building above began its life in 1911 as the Bushwick Theater, a vaudeville house, and continued on as a movie house and church until being abandoned for a few decades. Remarkably, much of the exterior facade remained in good condition, and in 2004 the building was gutted, remodeled, cleaned up, and reopened as the ACORN High School for Social Justice. There are a pair of good histories, complete with photos of the building in its heyday and covered in grafitti, here and here.
The friend I was with, a longtime Brooklynite, mentioned that the area was hit particularly hard in the blackout of 1977, a story corroborated by the folks at Wikipedia. Gothamist ran a good roundup of news and photos to commemorate the 30th anniversary in 2007. Apparently two whole blocks of Broadway were in flames at one point, and the vacant lots just opposite the theater (which was spared, luckily) attest to this. My friend added that he didn't think the area had ever fully recovered, and though the efforts of the East Broadway Merchants Association are on display, I'm inclined to agree with him, at least insofar as vacant lots are a rare find along major thoroughfares, even in Brooklyn.
On the lighter side, he also noted that he knew quite a few "blackout babies," a phenomenon that many 1977-born New Yorkers are apparently familiar with.