Building Description Fox Theatre, Brooklyn New York

The building complex occupied most of a triangular site bounded by Nevins and Livingston Streets, whose junction forms a right angle, and by Flatbush Avenue, which forms the hypotenuse of the Triangle. The lot, containing some 29,000 square feet, extended 211'7" along Nevins Street, 262'10" along Flatbush Avenue, and 181'0" along Livingston Street. Toward the apex of the triangle, where Flatbush Avenue and Livingston Street join in a sharp angle, the lot was truncated. There the property line ran southwest at a right angle to Flatbush Avenue for 67'11" and then jogged south for about ten feet to join the Livingston Street lot line at a right angle. Where the junction of Flatbush Avenue and Nevins Street form an approximately 55-degree angle, the corner of the building was blunted by a one-window-wide chamfer. Therefore, the Flatbush Avenue elevation (containing the theatre entrance) and the Nevins Street elevation (containing the office building entrance) were a few feet shorter than the actual lot lines.

The office block was twelve stories high and stood at the junction of Flatbush Avenue and Nevins Street, running along the former for about 110 feet and along the latter for about 115 feet from the chamfered corner. The theatre block was the equivalent of ten stories high on Nevins Street and ran along that street for about 95 feet from the Livingston Street corner to join the office block. The Flatbush Avenue elevation of the theatre was the equivalent of eight to nine stories high and was set back about 22 feet from the front plane. It was fronted by shops surmounted by a wall screening a fire escape. The service building fronting the stage had eight fenestrated stories plus a blind top story. Variations of height, if any, in the Livingston Street elevation were not recorded.

The cantilevered slab-like marquee at the theatre entrance was rectangular in plan, was over 40 feet long, and projected the full width of the sidewalk. The flat front fascia had a seven-rank back-lit attraction board edged at top and bottom and in its soffit by two rows of incandescent bulbs. The attraction boards at each end were similarly edged and were two ranks higher than the front board. They were surmounted by large hollow block letters containing red neon tubing and spelling FOX. There were smaller flat marquees, apparently suspended, over the office building entrance and the grand lobby exit near the Livingston Street corner on Nevins Street.

An illuminated vertical sign about 60 feet high reading FOX THEATRE was cantilevered at a right angle from the Flatbush Avenue elevation at the Nevins Street corner. It ran from the third through the eighth story. High above the roof, a very large horizontal neon sign reading FOX THEATRE was raised on an open metal framework and faced northeast. The upper bar of the "F" in "FOX" extended the width of the sign above the "0" and "X." "THEATRE" ran across in smaller but still very large letters below "FOX."

The sub-basement contained very large furnace and machinery rooms. The basement is reported to have contained scene docks; two large rooms; doors to the orchestra pit and original organ console lift; the musicians' room; and property rooms, all presumably under the stage, as well as generator rooms; an organ relay and blower room; offices; workshops; various storage rooms; and, "across the hall," the ushers recreation and dressing rooms. "If one continued down the hall past the smaller shops, one eventually wound up just a doorway away from the ladies' lounge , . . ." (Paterson,"Farewell . . .") There were men's and women's retiring suites below the grand lobby, or foyer.

The women's suite consists of a large lounge, Louix XV in period; a smoking room finished in pale peach stucco; an elliptical cosmetic room with silk covered walls, and the wash room. The men's suite was not described or recorded. These suites were reached by stairways under the grand staircase and under stairs at the southwest end of the grand lobby.

Beyond the shallow 40-foot-wide entrance, there was a semi-elliptical vestibule with a stairway at its northwest side. Four or five sets of adjacent paired doors led southwest from this vestibule to an inner vestibule that had a short lateral passage leading to the most eastern aisle entrance to the auditorium. Three sets of paired doors led from the inner vestibule to the grand lobby. The floors of both vestibules sloped upward.

The grand lobby was 26 feet wide, about 135 feet long, and approximately 60 feet high. It was moderately curved in plan, following the contour of the rear of the auditorium orchestra level. The narrowness of this lofty space was dictated by the cramped building site. There were two sets of exits onto Nevins Street in the northwest wall and a set of exits onto Livingston Street at the narrow end opposite the main entrance, A partially enclosed stairway ran southwest against the northwest wall, and the grand staircase rose in opposed flights against the northwest wall to a central bridge spanning the lobby and leading to an open passage at the rear of the mezzanine. Stairs to the basement men's and women's rooms descended beneath these stairways, running northeast. A cashier's office and a closet opened northwest from underneath the bridge. Paired doors opened from the southeast wall into four of the five auditorium aisles. (The easternmost aisle opened from the inner vestibule.) The grand lobby rose through four stories. The southeast wall had large openings at the mezzanine and lower balcony levels, revealing narrow curving passages giving access to the rear of the mezzanine and to vomitoria leading to the lower cross aisle of the balcony. There was no room for mezzanine or balcony lobbies, or foyers. Above each of the two southeast wall tiers of large openings, there was a smaller opening at the fourth-story level.

The narrow southwest wall had a single tall aperture at the third-story level that opened onto part of the enclosed stairway to the level of the upper balcony vomitoria. Three large openings in the narrow northeast wall revealed the stairs and passages above the vestibules. Those stairs also ascended to the level of the upper balcony vomitoria. At the lower balcony (third-story) level, there were men's and women's lounges and washrooms in this area. The manager's office was on the fifth floor. Curiously, there were no elevators for theatre patrons. Their omission was apparently to economize space. Clear glass panels looked into the auditorium at the orchestra level and from the mezzanine passage. Along with the larger wall openings, they helped to mitigate the somewhat claustrophotiic effect of the unusually narrow and very tall grand lobby.

The auditorium was about 126 feet deep from the curtain line to the rear of the orchestra level. The distance from the pit rail to the rear of the orchestra was 104 feet. The extreme width was approximately 131 feet, with the walls converging to a width of not much more than 50 feet at the proscenium. Thus, the shape of the sloping orchestra floor was rather like a truncated wedge. There were exits at both the front and rear of the side aisles. The seating was divided into four rising sections by a central aisle and two intermediate aisles between it and the side aisles. The two outer sections of seating were divided about a third of the way back by cross aisles, the forward section of the left-hand section being known as the "children's section." Short flights of steps led from the side aisles to the stage. The seating capacity of the orchestra level has been variously given as 1,981 (architect's rough sketch) or 1,849 (Paterson), a discrepancy of 132. As the architect's figure was preliminary, and as Paterson had the "original American Seating Company blueprints," the latter figure would seem to be the correct one.

The proscenium opening was 50 feet wide and 35 feet high. The irregularly shaped stage area originally had an extreme depth of 39 feet and six inches to the curtain line, but an extension cantilevered over part of the orchestra pit soon gave the stage a depth of 47 feet. The stage had a width of about 90 feet at its widest point, giving 20-foot wings at each side of the 50-foot-wide proscenium. The scene doors were at grade on Livingston Street but some five feet above the stage floor. Probably moveable ramps were used to shift scenery in and out of the building. The stage door was at the southwest end of the stage service building on Flatbush Avenue. An entrance way led past a single elevator on the right and a service stairway on the left to the stage itself, opening behind the cyclorama. The stage loft rose to about 75 feet above the floor.

All of the mezzanine was under the balcony soffit, most of it placed far back. The sides of the mezzanine swung forward in a set of convex and concave curves, but the long slightly concave central section of the mezzanine parapet was overhung by a trifle more than 37 feet. The distance from the curtain line to the middle of that parapet was 97 feet and three inches, whereas the center of the slightly concave balcony parapet was only 60 feet and six inches from the curtain line. That placement probably accounted for the poor acoustics of the mezzanine, which evidently contained 345 seats (Paterson). (The architect's preliminary sketch proposed a capacity of 428 for that area, a difference of 83 seats.) The mezzanine was reached from a narrow curving rear passage open to the grand lobby. The grand stairway and its bridge, as well as the stairways at either end of the grand lobby, led to that mezzanine passage.

The height of the auditorium from the orchestra floor to the top of the domed ceiling was 96 feet. The rear wall of the steeply rising balcony was about 146 feet from the curtain line, making the depth of the balcony around 86 feet. Two cross aisles divided the balcony into three levels, the lowest being a loge section of four rows of seats. Each cross aisle was reached by two vomitoria approached from rear passages, the lower one of which, and possibly the upper one also, was open to the grand lobby. Both cross aisles had an exit at each end. The loge seats and 13-row middle level were divided into five sections by stepped aisles. The 12-row upper level was divided by stepped aisles into seven sections. The front wall of the projection room stood slightly forward of the rear, reducing the central section by one row. The seating capacity of the balcony was given on the architect's outline sketch as 1,896 and by Paterson as 1,866, a discrepancy of only 30. The total auditorium discrepancy between the two sources was 245, still fairly minor compared with the capacity of 5,000 claimed by press releases in 1928.

No plans of the office building have been found. That roughly triangular block had an irregularly-shaped Nevins Street entrance lobby about 35 feet wide containing a stairway and two elevators. William Fox had a suite of rooms, later used as Radio Station WBNY, "over the projection room on the eighth floor." (Paterson) The only two connections between the office block and the theatre were through a "secret door," apparently between the elevator lobby of the office building and the grand lobby "near the fish-tank," (Paterson) and through a passage connecting the Fox apartment and the stage service building. The passage, lighted by three windows facing Flatbush Avenue, ran above the auditorium ceiling and connected Fox's suite with the eighth-floor rehearsal hall.

Between the stage service building and the office building, there was a row of one-story shops flanking the auditorium. The row was surmounted by a screen wall, was about 21 feet deep, and extended for about 70 feet between the theatre entrance and the auditorium exits onto Flatbush Avenue. The stage entrance containing a stairway and one elevator was about 40 feet long and ten feet wide, running southwest up a few steps from its Flatbush Avenue door. Above first-floor shops, the rectangular stage service building contained single dressing rooms for stars, larger dressing rooms for duos and teams, and very large chorus dressing rooms. The eighth floor contained the rehearsal hall and the music library. The costume shop occupied an unfenestrated room on the ninth floor. (Paterson)

The grand staircase ascended 17 steps in two opposed runs against the northwest wall of the grand lobby to a landing. Six additional steps led southeast to a bridge spanning the lobby and leading to the mezzanine passage, which was open to the grand lobby. The stair runs and bridge appear to have been about ten feet wide and were flanked by broad parapets of verde antique marble. Above verde-antiquefaced walls, each inset with an elaborately scrolled gilded plaster triangular grille, the stair parapets ramped up ward in three steps capped by ogee scrolls of relaxed profile, and verde antique dadoes responded to the parapet outlines. The heavy square marble newel block at the foot of each flight had a rebated outer corner and supported a tall torchere composed of a cluster of gold-colored metal tubes indirectly lit from the lotiform bowls out of which they rose. The large central shaft had a pierced collar and faceted frosted glass top. At the landing, there was a large and elaborate fountain in front of a wall niche. The bridge parapets were "supported" by gilded elongated flattened compound egg-and-dart and acanthus-edged consoles above squat and heavy verde antique piers with gilded capitals making up over a third of their height. The capitals were composed of superposed foliate moldings, waterleaf and acanthus bordered at top and bottom by simpler leaf moldings. The ends of the parapets toward the stair landing were in the form of inverted scrolled consoles that were anthemion-carved on both faces. The outer face of each bridge parapet was inset with a large rectangular basrelief panel of gilded plaster bearing a conventionalized feline head, probably representing a lion, flanked by wing motifs and stylised sails. The base of each parapet was ornamented by gilded running moldings, waterleaf, fillet, and Vitruvian scroll. The ends of the parapets nearest the mezzanine passage carried conventionalized gilded dolphins whose tails curved upward in a 45 degree angle to "support" consoles at each end of the rectangular opening into the passage from the bridge. The inner faces of the ramping parapets were furnished with brass handrails.