Vail-Leavitt Music Hall
18 Peconic Avenue,
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The Vail-Leavitt Music-Hall (Official)
Functions: Live Theater
Previous Names: Music Hall, Lyceum Theater, Mini-Cine, Imperial Restaurant
The Music Hall was opened on October 11, 1881. It was built by David F. Vail. In 1909 it was renamed Lyceum Theatre. The theatre has only occasionally served as a movie theatre in its entire history, but that history could hardly be more distinguished: Thomas Edison used the theatre for early experiments in sound movies in 1914 using his Kinetophone.
The main theatre, upstairs, is an astonishing gem - a miniature opera house with the interior designed and embellished by J. W. Flack. It was closed in 1914 when World War I began, and a flu pandemic began. After the end of World War I it became a Chinese restaurant named Imperial Restaurant. A fire in the kitchen which was located on the stage damaged that part of the building, but the auditorium was saved. The restaurant never reopened. It was converted into a pool hall, followed by use as a betting establishment. From the end of 1925 until 1978 it was used for storage.
It was abandoned and forgotten for decades. In the late-1970’s, restoration efforts began, and they’ve been slowly continuing ever since. From 1984 to 1998 or so, old Classic movies were shown on a small 84-seat screen in a cramped downstairs space in an effort to raise funds and involve the community in the restoration crusade. The shows included live organ music and exhortations to volunteer.
The building had been sold for redevelopment in October 2023.
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