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Victori TheatreThe Victoria Theatre, photo taken on July 29, 2016, a day after the fire

Last week, a fire erupted inside the historic Victoria Theatre on 125th Street in Harlem. The fire, which began on the first floor, quickly spread to the third floor. Preservationists held their collective breath for a building which began life in October of 1917. Designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, it was said to be one of the largest and most beautiful theaters in the New York area, built at a cost of $250,000 with a seating capacity of over 2,400.

Victoria Theatre 125th Street Untapped Cities AFineLyneSidewalk view of the Victoria Theatre, with firehose still hooked up from the day before

In 1977, the Harlem Community Development Corporation acquired the building, and it closed as a Loew’s Theatre in 1978. The re-opening as a five-plex in 1986, under the name MovieCenter 5, was short-lived, and the theatre once again closed in 1994.

Vintage Loew's Victoria Theatre Harlem Untapped Cities AFineLyneImage via nycago.org

It is interesting to note that its neighbor to the West, the Apollo Theater, has an auditorium that goes off to the right of the lobby, while the Victoria Theatre’s auditorium goes off to the left of its lobby – placing the back ends of their respective stage houses up against each other.

Robert Lamb Loew's Victoria Theatre Harlem Untapped Cities AFineLyneInterior of the original Victoria Theatre. Image via nycago.org

After years of discussions regarding reuse of the historic theatre, plans are finally underway to transform the legendary Victoria Theatre, preserving its facade, lobby, marquis and signage. The addition will be a $164 million redesigned twenty-six story tower (300 feet tall) by Aufgang Architects that will include a 203,120 square foot Renaissance Hotel by Marriott, and about 172,000 square feet used for residential space, half of which will be affordable housing units. The space will also include retail and cultural space, and parking. The Victoria Theatre project is located at 233 West 125th Street, and when completed, will be one of the tallest buildings in Harlem.

Rendering of renovated Victoria Theatre in Harlem Untapped Cities AFineLyneRenderings of the renovated Victoria Theatre space

Victoria Theatre Marriott Hotel Harlem Untapped Cities AFineLyneRendering of the renovated Victoria Theatre space, with 26 story tower

While you’re on 125th Street, check out the historic gates painted by Franco the Great, and the legendary Apollo Theater, a few doors West. The Corn Exchange, the Harlem Metro North Station, and the re-use of an abandoned firehouse, all on 125th Street.  More on Harlem, including a Harlem Map. Get in touch with the author at AFineLyne.

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