The Trylon Theater In queens Faces an Uncertain Future

Trylon Exterior.  Photo by John Jurayj.
Trylon Exterior.  Photo by John Jurayj.

The Trylon Theater at 98-81 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park is an excellent example of the Art Moderne, a style that was widely used for movie theaters throughout the country in the 1930s, but is now rarely encountered in New York City on buildings of any type. Built in 1939 and attributed to the architect Joseph Unger, the theater took its name from the centerpiece of the World’s Fair that debuted that year in Flushing Meadow. Though the building’s design bears no relation to the three-side spire that rose beside the Perisphere at the center of the fairgrounds, the fair’s Trylon is used as an ornamental motif on the movie theater’s still-intact box office and the name itself conveyed a sense of cutting-edge modernity. The building’s concave façade is dominated by a central tower, largely composed of glass block that was almost certainly illuminated at night, and by the large semi-circle of the projecting marquee that provides a counterpoint to the inward curve of the facade. This composition dominates its commercial block and is truly a neighborhood landmark, although it remains undesignated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Trylon entrance and ticket booth.  Photo by John Jurayj.The theater closed just after its 60th anniversary in 1999 and has been vacant since. The City Council has allocated funds to convert the building into a community center, a use that HDC sees as entirely appropriate to this longtime focal point of the Rego Park community. Unfortunately, nothing is known about the pending design of the new center. HDC believes that the Trylon’s exterior should be restored for use by the center and that its interior must be surveyed to determine if there are elements of importance that could be reused in the new design. There is widespread support in the community for protecting the Trylon based both on fond memories of afternoons and evenings spent at the movies and on its excellent design. HDC and the Modern Architecture Working Group met with City Council Member Melinda Katz on May 13 to discuss an appropriate adaptive reuse strategy.

Please email CM Katz to voice your support for protecting the Trylon. In addition, HDC believes that the LPC should ultimately designate the Trylon. Email Chair Robert Tierney to let the Commission know you support designating this important piece of Queens’ history.

For more information, visit the Cinema Treasures website.

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