Today marks 50 years since the final performance at the Fillmore East; a place loved by its fans and reviled by its neighbors. I thought it would be fun to remember the venue with a brief recap of its history.
105 Second Ave, the building that housed The Fillmore, had many incarnations.
Originally, when it opened in 1926, it was a Yiddish live performance/film theater in a neighborhood once called the “Yiddish Broadway” due to the plethora of such theaters on Second Ave, from Houston St. to 14th St.
It then became the “Loew’s Commodore”, a movie palace showing first run movies of the day.
1940’s Tax photo
When that closed it, was turned into the “Village Theater”.
In a blog post I read regarding the building’s history, it was described as " ‘a sort of bargain-basement counterculture Carnegie Hall’,… [with] many of its events …[being] designed to appeal to the area’s growing population of hepcats, hipsters, and hippies.”
The list of performers who played here will turn your head. From Lenny Bruce and Timothy Leary to Ornette Coleman and Zappa.
It became “Bill Graham’s Fillmore East” in March 1968, closing in June 1971.
View of E6th St and 2nd Ave
The Fillmore East, at a capacity of 2650, was a little on the smaller side for its day. “Intimate”, you might say, for a rock and roll show.
The line up of acts who played both the East and West Fillmore’s was a ‘who’s who’ of talent from both sides of the pond.
This is how I remembered the Fillmore as a teenager when passing it by.
I’ve included links to some quick to peruse sites. There are many more in depth sites if your so inclined.
This is best viewed on a desktop screen due to its poor resolution on today’s large TV’s
A local blog article:
In the 80’s, the old Fillmore was given a $4.5 million dollar renovation and another chance at world fame, this time as “The Saint”, probably the most famous gay disco ever. It was notorious at that time for its Black Parties and White Parties that attracted celebrities worldwide and would literally last days.
The other main attraction was its mega thousand-dollar planetarium dome affixed high above the dance floor, which provided the amazing light show and effects.
When aids ravaged the world, The Saint, after a brief but spectacular life, was forced to close.
In late 1995, the theater was demolished. Only the entrance portion still remains. The facade, a vestige of the portal it once led to, now a nondescript bank.
Like so many other old movie palaces, the theater portion was replaced by a generic, dormitory styled apartment building, inhabited by people who laid their heads down every night, unaware of the history and the legacy that surrounded them.
The area as it looks today…notice all the trees!
Looking down E6th St ,standing on 2nd Ave…
Getting a perspective view of the former theater portion, now apartment complex.
A closer view of the complex entrance located on what was once the side of the theater.
The reminders of that site’s storied past are a stone plaque on the apartment building at its entrance, a metal plaque on the bank’s front entrance, which can been seen directly above the windshield of the parked car and a tile mosaic on the lamp pole to which the “Walk/Don’t Walk” sign is affixed.