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Harlem's Theaters Saved By Churches

Three of New York’s most historical theaters have been spared the wrecking ball thanks to churches making them their homes. First Corinthian Baptist Church, the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith and United Palace Theater (owned by Christ Community United Church) all have one thing in common: the buildings they occupy began as arts venues. Historically, each has undergone an unforeseen amount of change.

According to The Wall Street Journal, First Corinthian Baptist Church began as The Regent Theater in 1913. It was shaped into a hit by Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel (the force behind the Roxy and Radio City Music Hall) before finally closing as a movie house in 1963. The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith was originally the Mt. Morris Theater, one of the oldest theaters still standing in the city. After fires and moves, the Mt. Morris passed through the hands of the Irish, Yiddish and Hispanic communities before becoming a church. The United Palace Theater (originally Loew’s 175th Street Theatre) avoided demolition when Reverend Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II purchased and restored the building. The current owners of the 81-year old venue started leasing the space in 2007 to concert producers. The Palace Theater is still sporadically used as a theater.
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