Bronx Opera House – 436-442 East 149th Street
ITEM PROPOSED FOR PUBLIC HEARING
A four-story Italian Renaissance Revival style theater building built in 1912-13 by George
Keister that became home to Latin music clubs through the 1960s and 1970s.
As the citywide advocate for New York’s architectural, historical and cultural neighborhoods, HDC enthusiastically supports the designation of The Bronx Opera House as an Individual Landmark.
Located at 436-442 East 149th Street in the South Bronx, and built as a theater and restaurant between 1912 and 1913, the Bronx Opera House not only represents a history of early 20th-Century off-Broadway performance featuring such famous names as George M.Cohan and John Barrymore, but also stands as a testament to the Puerto Rican community and culture which grew and flourished in the South Bronx after WWII, whose stories are under-told and under-preserved.
Following the Second World War, the Bronx Opera House became home to a series of nightclubs including the Club Caravana, the Bronx Casino, and El Cerromar which all featured Latinx performers.
We are glad the LPC has pledged to focus on Bronx Landmarks as part of its 2021 Equity Framework, promising to “ensure diversity and inclusion in designations.” Designating the Bronx opera house will be a step towards fulfilling that promise.
Currently, the city has identified adaptive reuse and building conversion as a major tenant of its climate resilience and affordability plan, City of Yes. The Bronx Opera House is an important example of adaptive reuse. Today, the building operates as a hotel which anchors the neighborhood while still maintaining the historic features that help make it worthy of landmark status. This flourishing building offers meaningful lessons about how stewardship and reuse of historic resources is a necessary tool for leading the city into a sustainable future.