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Historical Note: The first site of the Brooklyn Academy of Music opened on January 15, 1861 at 176-194 Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. Designed by the well regarded architect Leopold Eidlitz (who also designed St. George's Episcopal Church in Stuyvesant Square), the facility housed a large theater seating 2,200, a smaller concert hall, dressing and chorus rooms, and a vast “baronial” kitchen. The building burned to the ground on November 30, 1903.
The second BAM facility was designed in the Beaux Arts style by the architectural firm Herts and Tallant. During the first two decades of the 20th century Herts and Tallant were among the most popular and innovative theater architects in New York City, contributing designs to many Broadway theaters, such as the New Amsterdam, Liberty, Shubert and Booth Theaters. After their original design won the competition to design the new Academy, construction began in 1906 and the Academy reopened at 30 Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene, in the fall of 1908.
The 30 Lafayette facility (later renamed the Peter Jay Sharp Building) was designed to cater to the needs of both the Academy and the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Aside from the 2,200 seat opera house, there was a second floor ballroom and banquet hall, which is now the flexible Lepercq Space. In addition, there was a 1,400 seat concert hall with full pipe organ, and a 400 seat lecture hall equipped with a pneumatic trough for scientific lectures. The music hall has since been redesigned for the BAM Rose Cinemas, and the lecture hall is now used as office space for BAM staff on the 3rd floor.
BAM acquired the Majestic Theater at 651 Fulton Street in 1987. Originally opened in 1904, the Majestic went through many phases of existence. It began as an important trial theater for productions heading to Broadway, then became a first-run movie theater in 1942. By the 1960s it was an adult movie theater. After laying abandoned for two decades, it was officially reopened as the 800 seat BAM Majestic in 1989, inaugurated with the nine-hour performance of Peter Brook’s Mahabharata. In 1999 it was renamed the BAM Harvey Theater.
In fall 2012 the most recent addition to the BAM campus, the BAM Fisher Building, opened at 321 Ashland Place, just around the corner from the Peter Jay Sharp Building. From 1928 to 2003, the building housed the Brooklyn Citadel Corp of the Salvation Army. According to the Salvation Army Archives, what is now the 250 seat black box theater (called the Fishman Space) in the Fisher Building was “most likely used as a chapel for Salvationist services, as well as a performance space for the Brooklyn Citadel Corps Band, one of the Salvation Army's brass bands.” In addition to the theater, the Fisher Building also houses an exhibition space, classrooms, a rehearsal space, and a rooftop garden.
Scope and Content Note: The BAM Photograph Collection includes exterior and interior illustrations and photos of all BAM sites, including the original Montague Street location, the Peter Jay Sharp Building, the Harvey, and the Fisher.
Highlights in the collection include documentation of the 1903 fire that destroyed the Montague Street building, and the 1977 flood that damaged the Peter Jay Sharp building. The collection also includes historical photos of the Harvey and Fisher (when the buildings housed the Salvation Army and the Majestic Theater, respectively). In addition, there are a centuries' worth of street shots featuring scenes from the constantly changing neighborhood surrounding the BAM campus in Fort Greene.