Hunterdon Theatre

Route 31 & Church Street,
Flemington, NJ 08822

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dvanlieu on May 27, 2015 at 6:25 pm

I meant to add that I have a copy of the “Special Hunterdon Theater Edition” of the “Theatrical and Shopping Guide” dated June 5, 1942, announcing the opening of “The World’s Finest Rural Theater”. A fascinating bit of local history.

dvanlieu on May 27, 2015 at 6:20 pm

I’m looking for photographs of the construction of the Hunterdon Theater. I know that the Hunterdon County Democrat had some, I’ve been sent one, but I know there are more. If anyone can point me to a source of construction photos and later, I’d appreciate it.

Dirck Van Lieu

JimmyB27 on August 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm

I remember back in the mid seventies going to see shows with the woman who’d become my wife of 36 years. I wasn’t from Flemington, but she grew up in Branchburg, really sad its gone. The Theater’s gone and so are many dear friends from Flemington, dang I hate growing old.

fionaferguson on October 11, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Dear Mr. Van Lieu,

Thank you so very much for posting the old photos of the Hunterdon Theatre. As a kid growing up in Flemington, none of us thought to snap a photo of our favorite theatre because we “knew” it would be there forever. I was very sad at the thought of never seeing her again and your photos brought a smile (and a tear) to my face once again.

dvl on May 24, 2009 at 9:11 pm

I believe that Van Lieu and Van Horn built all of those theaters. Uncle Don was my father’s half-brother. I’m not surprised that his things were tossed after his passing. I was in his house near this time last year. There were hundreds of old “Life” magazines…

I still use some tools and equipment from Van Lieu and Van Horn!

hondo59 on May 24, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Hi Dirck,
You must be a relative of Don Van Lieu of Hopewell. Don and I spoke many times about the building of the Hunterdon. Didn’t your family have something to do with Barn, Belvidere, and Clinton Point? I’m afraid that all of Don’s belongings (and clippings/memorabilia) were thrown out after his passing in September, 2006. He loved the old movie houses.

The site is a new building (Walgreen’s) and across highway 31 (old house that was torn down for a steak house) is a new gas station. Across Church Street is another pharmacy and a bank. Poniatowski Brothers site was torn down for a WAWA which recently vacated to the new place directly across the Hunterdon. Things change…

dvl on May 24, 2009 at 7:04 pm

Van Lieu and Van Horn

Walter Hand, Farrington, Ed Weede, George Van Horn, Russell Van Lieu

I don’t remember George Van Horn. The bald man looks too old and the man in the back next to my grandfather looks too young. The order of names is as it’s written on the back. Any confirmation?

dvl on May 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm

I’ve been trying for maybe a year to register for this discussion. At last! My grandfather Russell, my father John and even my mother Evelyn (Kris) Van Lieu burned the midnight oil to complete the Hunterdon Theater before the deadline imposed for the war effort. Just today I found a large photo of Walter Hand, BW(?) Farrington, Ed Weede, George Van Horn and Russell Van Lieu. They are posing in the lobby of the theater on June 6, 1942. Any devoté of the Hunterdon will recognize the wild carpet!

The story of the theater’s construction was a tale of legend in our family. I grew up watching movies there and am sad that the town of Flemington is so blind to its own history that it would allow it to go. Grandpop, Mom, Dad and Uncle Don are all gone now and the landmark too.

Van Lieu and Van Horn’s office was two doors north of the theater. I’ll guess it’s the site of some fast food emporium now. The Flemington of my youth is long gone.

Photos of the construction are to be had through the archives of the Democrat, assuming they still have them. One shows my father up on one of those amazing trusses. RIP Dad.

dvl on May 24, 2009 at 5:46 pm

Have I finally succeeded in my quest to register?!

fionaferguson on April 13, 2009 at 2:14 pm

I grew up in Flemington and have many fond memories of the Hunterdon Theatre. Standing in the long wrap around lines that flanked the one movie per month theatre was a family favorite. I remember waiting with excitement at the prospect of seeing “Jaws” with my parents. My friends and I sank into the red velvet seats while we watched “Rocky” for the 10th time. Many dates were spent up in the balcony with the rocker seats – oh what a grand lady she was. I’m sorry to read here that the velvet curtain has closed for the last time on a wonderful piece of Flemington history and that the memories held within those bricks were bulldozed for a Walgreens. That sort of news makes me sick and glad that I now live in a small Maine town, quite reminescent of Flemington in her younger days, with one difference, my current town has a true Historical Society that cares about the history of it’s town. Goodbye Hunterdon – thanks for being a part of my life.

hondo59 on November 16, 2006 at 3:49 pm

John Van Lieu’s brother, Donald, passed away in early September, 2006. He lived long enough to see his father’s theater destroyed by the visionaries who sit on the Flemington Planning Board.

HalWolverton on November 15, 2006 at 2:58 pm

I’ve been by there lately and since at least Sept. it’s been completely gone. It surprised me, I’d really hoped someone would use the building for something.

hondo59 on July 10, 2006 at 5:44 pm

The great Hunterdon is almost gone now except for the front area to the projection booth wall. The almighty buck wins again as it always does in this tunnelvision community. Let’s hope it’s another drugstore to compete with the one across Church Street.
What an absolute fiasco! I was shocked to see the demolition today – the auditorium gone with the windows on the projection booth wall intact and clearly visible. I was going to get my camera but decided to remember it the way it was.
Lost Memory asked if this theater had a smoker’s balcony. Yes, it did and the seats were wider and slid back.
I remember the “courtesy wall” between the lobby and orchestra seats. I remember the pink neon that wrapped around the overhang and the big oak on the Church Street side. I remember the winding lines of people waiting to get in on a summer night. I had many dates here.
The Flemington Fur Company owners had invested in the building at some point. I wonder why they could not have employed some creative accounting scenario to salvage the Hunterdon and make it into performing arts center. Instead, we get Walmart, Lowe’s, CVS, Kohl’s and all the other truly unique stores we see in each town anymore.

teecee on April 7, 2006 at 4:41 am

It’s all over for this one. Note the misleading title of the article which implies the new store will go IN the old theatre. Flemington has been touting its main street as a place to come and shop yet they couldn’t save this old theater not too far from the main street. Article is from the online version of the Hunterdon Democrat.

Flemington planners give go-ahead to Walgreens in former movie theater
Thursday, April 06, 2006
By Blair Barbieri
Monday night marked an end to an era when the Flemington Planning Board granted preliminary site plan approval for a Walgreens drug store to replace the old Hunterdon Theatre.

The vacant building, home of the theater from 1942 until 1993 and a coat store until 2000, will be knocked down to make way for a 14,820-square-foot drug store and drive-up pharmacy.

The board granted the applicant, Roger Howard of Roho LLC, all of the variances he was seeking at a meeting March 6, but ran out of time before it could vote on the site plan and design waivers.

At that meeting, the board asked Howard to try to comply with some of the borough’s ordinances, and on Monday he came back with an improved plan.

Two additional landscaped islands were added to the parking lot around where the drug store will be. Though Howard did not have one island for every 10 to 12 parking spaces in his revised plan, the board’s professionals believed he no longer needed a design waiver for that.

“The purpose of breaking up a parking lot with islands is to get shade into the parking lot,” said Borough Planner Carl Hintz. “They meet the intent of the ordinance and I consider them in compliance. It’s the best they could do with a pre-existing site.”

Though Howard’s professionals added more landscaping and trees, the site is still unable to comply with certain ordinances because of retrofitting. Design waivers were granted for a landscaped filtering buffer around the parking lot and for street trees; 17 were needed and Roho will plant 14.

At the March 6 meeting the board denied a waiver for lighting intensity. Roho now complies with the borough’s requirement of an average of no more than 0.9 foot candles.

The board enforced an ordinance that requires developers to pay $550 for each tree that is required but cannot be planted, either because the site has no room or the developer doesn’t want more trees. The money will be used by the Shade Tree Commission to plant the trees elsewhere in the borough.

The entire site is deficient by 10 trees, but the area where the drug store will be built will have one extra tree. The board could not decide whether it needed to look at the entire site or at just what was being redeveloped, and decided that instead of making Howard pay $550 for each deficient tree, he will pay for five. Shrubbery pre-existing on the site was determined to be too substantial to remove to plant the deficient trees.

The board attached several conditions to the preliminary site plan, including facade signs being lit no later than 10 p.m. or until the store closes; a performance and maintenance bond for trees to ensure that any new or transplanted trees survive for two growing seasons; and internal signs in the parking lot to limit tractor-trailer movement onto Church Street.

teecee on March 2, 2006 at 1:07 am

Listed as a Brandt Theater in the 1976 International Motion Picture Almanac.

teecee on December 11, 2005 at 12:32 pm

Flemington — The Planning Board is still hearing testimony on a proposed Walgreens drug store which would be located in the former Hunterdon Theatre, most recently Coat World, on Route 31 at Church Street. Roger Howard, managing partner of Roho LLC, said companies that had been interested in leasing the space felt it was unusable. Howard said he wishes there was an alternative to razing the building but his “pockets are getting shallow.” He said the plan he is presenting to the board is after years of negotiating with Walgreens. Roho is seeking relief for numerous ordinances including a front yard set back from Route 31, building height, floor area ratio, signs on the building, free-standing signs and lighting.

from the online version of the Hunterdon Democrat, 12/8/05

teecee on December 1, 2005 at 3:28 pm

From the Hunterdon Democrat online version:

Flemington — The former Hunterdon Theatre, which was more recently a coat store, may be razed if a preliminary site plan is approved. Roho LLC of Florham Park wants to build a 14,820-square-foot Walgreens drug store there at Route 31 and Church Street. When the Planning Board began hearing testimony on Nov. 22, Roho’s architect told the board it is seeking two variances. The first, for building height, would allow Roho to maintain a “traditional Walgreens look.” Architect Chuck Dietz said that includes an entrance tower on a flattened corner of the building. Above the entrance would be a large glass window with an illuminated sign of a mortar and pestle. The borough ordinance allows for 25 feet and Roho is asking for 3 more. The theater is 31.6 feet tall. The second variance is for signs. The borough allows 100 square feet total, and one per faade. Roho wants 510 square feet and more than one sign per faade. The hearing will continue at the board’s next meeting, Monday at 7:30 p.m.

The paper version even went so far as to put a color “picture” of the new store in contrast to the current site.

teecee on August 13, 2005 at 5:38 am

My photos from March 3/19/2005 (excuse the shadows):
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piratequeen on July 16, 2005 at 7:39 am

I’m sure the town has no interes in saving a landmark… Hunterdon Democrat article dated 6/23/05… View link

Also, the silver roof wasn’t simply painted aquamarine. The original domed roof was removed and replaced with a standard pitched metal roof. So sad. Years ago I had read a description about the theatre, in the article it said the architect got the inspiration for the roof from Radio City Music Hall.

teecee on May 21, 2005 at 7:01 am

John Franklin Van Lieu died on 4/22/05. He worked with his father in the family’s construction business, Van Lieu and Van Horn, which built the Hunterdon Theatre. He and his crew worked around the clock to finish it at midnight of a building restriction deadline enacted during World War II.
Hunterdon Democrat, Page D-9, 5/12/05

btcarfagno on April 5, 2005 at 9:07 am

I own a business in Flemington and would love to do anything that I can to save it and restore it. Don’t know how much help that really is, but I’d love to find out. Please contact me via my profile.

Tom C

teecee on March 20, 2005 at 11:52 am

Help save this theater building! It is very solid and in good shape. I took many photographs yesterday because I fear that it may quietly disappear.

Here is the link to the realtor: View link

The theater is the free standing “Building I” in the ad.

teecee on March 7, 2005 at 7:41 am

2nd paragraph above, change “steam” to “steel”

teecee on March 5, 2005 at 8:42 am

I had hoped to have more information before submitting this theatre. And it came last night in the mail. In the March 2005 issue of Hunterdon Life magazine (a local freebie), the theatre is featured in the centerfold. And what a centerfold she was. The photo is timeless. Although “On Golden Pond” is shown on the marquee, at a quick glance the photo could easily be from the 50s or 60s.

The theater was built by Alvin Sloan, partner is St. Cloud Amusement Corp. The company owned the St. Cloud theater in Washington DC and about a dozen others in NJ. There was a shortage of steam beams during WWII, so the curved roof is supported by laminated wood beams. The architect who came up with this idea was Edwin Weed.

Sloan didn’t like the smell of popcorn, so the theatre didn’t sell any until 1946, when Brandt Theaters began to lease the theatre. They leased it for the next 25 years. In 1969, the 100 seat smoking loge was added and the ventilation system upgraded. The theatre officially closed its doors on September 16, 1993, after a 9:30 pm showing of The Fugitive. As previously reported, Coat World, part of Flemington Furs, leased the building immediately thereafter until about 2001. The current owner is Eagle Properties.

Today, that infamous curved roof is painted aquamarine.

teecee on February 27, 2005 at 9:27 am

Found this interesting fact on the web: The Annual Meeting of stockholders of The American Tobacco Company was held at the Hunterdon Theatre on April 2, 1958. This was a New York based company. Perhaps someone on the board of directors had ties with Flemington.