Perlman: Raising Funds To Salvage Trylon Theater Façade & Tower Diner Features

A fundraiser is underway to salvage and relocate the largely intact Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan synagogue façade in its entirety, consisting of the intact Art Deco stonework and the illuminated glass block projection tower and elliptical marquee.

It would also consist of the Tower Diner bank building features such as the distinctive clock tower, columns, cornice, and signage. Time is of the essence to contribute:

The cause originated after this columnist joined forces with fellow Forest Hills resident and preservationist Evan Boccardi. An estimated $80,000 would ultimately need to be raised within a short period of time, in order to spare the Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan façade from demolition.

The developer, RJ Capital Holdings/Trylon LLC, agreed to have the well-known Demolition Depot, founded by Evan Blum, serve as a subcontractor. This firm achieved recognition for salvaging other historic facades in their entirety, as well as rescuing historic architectural features and repurposing them for projects, in order to have a new lease on life.

The funds would cover protective supplies and pay crew members. Additionally, storage would be provided. In the future, these architecturally and culturally significant buildings would be resurrected. “Demolition Depot has remarkably rescued many facades, and have the expertise to save the Trylon Theater façade and Tower Diner features as well,” said Boccardi.

The Trylon Theater, which opened in 1939, is considered the last Art Deco building that significantly reflects the innovative and multicultural 1939 – 1940 World’s Fair, which was held nearby in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Since 2005, it was Ohr Natan Synagogue & Community Center, a second home for largely Orthodox Bukharian Jews, where many faced oppression in their native countries. The synagogue is in the process of relocating across Queens Boulevard.

The popular Tower Diner, which opened in 1993, adaptively reused a federal-style bank building and was highly distinguished by its clock tower along Queens Boulevard. Designed in the 1950s, it was modeled after a more traditional bank building during a mid-century modern period, but in conjunction with the Trylon Theater, it originated in 1939 as a supper club, followed by Croft Chemists, complete with a soda fountain. Its longtime tenant was Emigrant Savings Bank.

The Trylon Theater was deemed landmark-worthy in the January 1990 NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Survey but was not pursued further after staff members changed and priority was given to Manhattan.

The Art Deco style theater was named after the 1939 World’s Fair’s symbolic spire-like monument, the Trylon, which stood alongside the globular Perisphere monument. Analogous to the Fair’s theme, “The World of Tomorrow,” where exhibits featured technological innovations, the theater was known as “The Theater of Tomorrow.”

From the Trylon Theater’s streamlined stone façade with a glass block projection tower illuminating Queens Boulevard, an elliptical marquee once boasted classics such as “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland, “Gone with the Wind” starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, and “The Ghost Breakers” starring Bob Hope, as well as many more relatively recent memorable films including “Pretty Woman” and “Evita.” Originally, an entrance pavilion featured a Trylon-adorned mosaic ticket booth and a central 3D Trylon depiction on a terrazzo floor accompanied by colorful chevron mosaics.

Deemed a novelty, the Trylon Theater was designed by New York architect Joseph Unger (1896 – 1996), a Cooper Union alumnus. Neighboring mom and pop shops were Mildred’s Luncheonette, Trylon Soda & Ice Cream, Trylon Realty, Trylon Tailors, and Trylon Liquors, which remains in operation, but relocated last year across Queens Boulevard. With multiplexes on the rise, The Trylon shuttered after its 60th-anniversary celebration in 1999 and was one of the last single-screen theaters citywide.

The Trylon Theater epitomizes the Art Deco style, featuring sleek and sophisticated lines and accents, and smooth curves to create images of “triumph with elegance.” Architects were more experimental, as they celebrated the victory of the machine age. Patrons recognized a vertical glass block projection tower through a streamlined stone facade, with an elliptical marquee. This illuminated Queens Boulevard at night, symbolic to the Trylon and Perisphere monuments’ efficient use of light. Two reverse channel neon signs atop the marquee read “TRYLON.”

Let’s save a great Art Deco masterpiece, and save our world from architectural banality,” said Boccardi.

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