Source: Ya Khwaja Garib Nawaz.
We’re used to the once-sacred becoming commercialized (Christmas in America, anyone?), but occasionally, roles are reversed. The commercial has become holy in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park district, where a former movie theater was repurposed as a Turkish mosque.
Berkshire Theater, once standing on 8th Avenue, opened in 1926. Its design was inspired by Hollywood’s early imaginings of Orientalist, Moorish, and Arabesque architecture, appealing, like many movie theaters of the time, to America’s largely misinformed interest in exoticism. It closed in 1955 and was finally purchased for use as a mosque in 1979.
The building then took on more authentic Oriental elements; the interior portals were refashioned into semi-circle arches by a Turkish carpenter, the walls were decorated with Turkish tiles, and the former lobby of the movie house was split into sections by a series of marble-layered arcades. The former ticket booth of the theater was repurposed as a small Islamic book store. Today, the space is used for prayer, weekend schooling, women’s organizations, youth clubs, and cultural activities for students.
The still-in-use Berkshire Theatre in 1946. Source: Brooklynpix.com.
The former ticket booth of Berkshire Theatre, after its conversion into a religious bookstore. Source: MIT Open Courseware.
We know of one other example of this happening, at a factory-turned-mosque in Jamaica, Queens.
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