The RKO Hamilton Theatre
Moss and Brill’s Hamilton Theatre opened on January 23, 1913 in Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights neighborhood. The theater was commissioned by vaudeville operator Benjamin S. Moss and theater developer Solomon Brill and designed by the prolific Thomas W. Lamb, known for the architecture of many of the Hamilton’s contemporaries. Lamb designed the Hamilton in the Renaissance Revival style, incorporating a terracotta façade.
In 1915, Brill sold his half of the Hamilton to Moss; the theater was then renamed B.S. Moss’s Hamilton Theatre. Five years later Moss combined his theater company with B.F. Keith’s — who later formed the Keith-Albee theater circuit — to form the Greater New York Vaudeville Theaters Corporation. This merger resulted in another name change for the theater, to the B.F Keith’s Hamilton Theater. With the decline of vaudeville, Moss retired and sold the theater in 1928 to the newly formed Radio-Keith-Orpheum (also known as RKO Pictures). The Hamilton was then converted into a motion picture theater, one of the first in New York City.
The Hamilton stopped showing films in 1958. After its partial closure, the auditorium was used as a sports arena and a disco. In 1965 the building was purchased by a church, and was later sold in the mid 1990’s. The lobby was converted into a retail space and the auditorium was last used as a warehouse for a beer and liquor wholesaler. The theater is currently unused; there are no plans for re-purposing or renovation.