Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Recently-Saved Pelham Picture House Was Saved Once Before in 1928

In 2001 and 2002, a group of civic-minded Pelhamites and others set out to save the Pelham Picture House, a large single-screen movie theater located at 175 Wolfs Lane.  The theater, built in 1921 by Clint Woodward of Bronxville, was set to be sold and demolished with plans to erect a retail bank branch on the site.  The citizens created a non-profit organization named "Pelham Picture House Preservation."  The organization spent the next four years raising the money to acquire the theater.  On May 28, 2010, the Pelham Picture House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

Nearly everyone in Pelham knows of the intense efforts to save the Pelham Picture House during the 2001-2005 time period.  Few know, however, that the Pelham Picture House had to be "saved" once before in 1928.

The Pelham Picture House in 2011.
Source:  Wikipedia.  NOTE:  Click Image to Enlarge.

In late 1927 -- even before the advent of "talkies" in Pelham -- the management of The Pelham Picture House found itself in "severe hardship" due to competition from "larger theatres in neighboring communities."  A decision was made to pull the plug on the theater.  It went dark, disappointing residents throughout the Town of Pelham.  The owners of the theater sold the property which sat, unused, for months.

In July, 1928, a local real estate company, Lander Realty Corporation, applied on behalf of the property to the Board of Trustees of the Village of Pelham (today's Pelham Heights) to reopen the motion picture theater.  The application was met with enthusiasm and was approved unanimously by the board.  

The move by Lander Realty Corporation seems to have been prompted by an initiative to renovate the Pelham Picture House and have a New Rochelle motion picture theater operator named Carl F. Michelfelder operate the Pelham Picture House.  

On Thursday, August 16, 1928, after a shutdown that lasted more than eight months, The Pelham Picture House reopened.  The new management showed the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film "The Crowd."  A large audience attended and enjoyed the newly-renovated theater under the management of Carl F. Michelfelder.  The single-screen theater had been saved -- nearly eighty years before Pelham saved it yet again!

Below is text from a series of articles reflecting this interlude in the history of The Pelham Picture House.  Each is followed by a citation and link to its source.

The Pelham Picture House in an Undated Photograph,
Ca. 1920s.  NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge.

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"Pelham Heights Village Fathers Like the Movies
Proposal To Reopen Pelham Picture House Pleases Members Of Village Board; Permit Granted

The Pelham Heights Village Board is going to the 'movies.'  The application of the Lander Realty Corporation for a permit to operate the Pelham Picture House on Wolf's Lane was greeted with much enthusiasm by the Pelham Heights Trustees Tuesday night.  The permit to reopen the motion picture theatre, which has been dark for the last six months was granted without a dissenting vote.

Trustee Talbert W. Sprague, who attended his first meeting,, announced that he had stopped going to the 'movies' since the picture house closed.  'I used to enjoy sitting in those comfortable box seats and going to sleep during the picture,' he said.  

Mayor Maxwell B. Nesbitt, none the less appreciative of a community motion picture house, agreed that he had missed the performance and welcomed the proposal to reopen the theatre.

Inasmuch as the former management of the Pelham Picture House operated the theatre under severe hardship due to competition of the larger theatres in neighboring communities, the enthusiasm of the Pelham Heights Village Fathers is assurance that the programs will receive some patronage, and evidence that the little theatre was an important part of the local community life.

Alterations are being made at the theatre.  The opening date is soon to be announced."

Source:  Pelham Heights Village Fathers Like the Movies -- Proposal To Reopen Pelham Picture House Pleases Members Of Village Board; Permit Granted, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 20, 1928, p. 13, cols. 5-6.  


When renovations are completed Pelham Picture House will be opened by Carl F. Michelfelder, New Rochelle motion picture house operator, who has had long experience in the business.  It is expected that Mr. Michelfelder will announce his plans next week.

Pelham Picture House on Wolf's Lane at Brookside avenue was built by Clint Woodward, of Bronxville.  It was opened in 1921 and continued until late last year when the building was sold."

Source:  PELHAM PICTURE HOUSE SOON TO OPEN, The Pelham Sun, Jul. 13, 1928, Vol. 19, No. 20, p. 2, col. 4.


A large audience attended the opening of The Pelham Theatre on Wolf's Lane, Pelham, last night.  The theatre, which has undergone a complete renovation and is entirely re-decorated, is under the management of Carl Michelfelder.  Under the new management, first run pictures will be shown for the entertainment of Pelhamites."  

Source:  PELHAM THEATRE OPENED LAST NIGHT, The Pelham Sun, Aug. 17, 1928, p. 1, col. 3.  

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