Description & Building Alterations
Before becoming known as a hotspot for counterculture, St. Marks Place was one of the most elite streets in the entire city when it was first built up in the 1830s by developer Thomas E. Davis. This corner building was constructed in the place of a large mansion that was sold after its first decade to Eugene Keteltas, whose family kept the mansion in the family for as long as it lasted. In 1912, after the last Keteltas has passed, a permit was filed to replace the mansion with a movie theater. Various newspaper articles claim that before its destruction, the mansion was the last remaining grand private dwelling in the neighborhood, and the final holdout from Second Avenue’s original glory days. The present building was constructed between 1912-1913 as a movie theater, offices and shops.
Beginning in 1965, the theater was home to the award-winning Negro Ensemble Company, developed that year by playwright/actor Douglas Turner Ward, producer/actor Robert Hooks, and theater manager Gerald Krone. The Company was officially founded two years later, and sought to support Black actors and playwrights at a time when few theater opportunities were afforded to African Americans. Since 1967, the Negro Ensemble Company has produced over two hundred plays and nurtured the careers of over four thousand individuals, including actors Phylicia Rashad, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett. Today it is located at 135 West 41st Street.
Block : 464 / Lot : 7503 / Building Date : 1912-13 / Original Owner : Samuel Augenblick Co. / Original Use : Residential / Original Architect : H. W. Levitan