← Back

A Mystery No More

The long empty lot near 3rd Avenue and 14th Street.

As Curbed and EVGrieve recently pointed out, the renderings for a new building to be constructed on the long-empty lot between 13th and 14th Streets near 3rd Avenue were released the other day. The 83-unit residential building will include “private rooftop cabana terraces,” a residents’ library, fitness center, lounges, and a rooftop terrace with an outdoor kitchen.

A rendering of the new 211 East 13th Street residential building.

While these new renderings take some mystery out of the future of this ‘Mystery Lot,’ we thought we would take a look at its past.

For much of the twentieth century, this piece of real estate with a small front along 14th Street and a large space along 13th Street housed a theater and offices.

Erected in 1912 and opened in 1913 as the B.F. Keith’s vaudeville theater, the building was designed by George Keister. Keister’s other New York works include the Astor, Belasco, Earl Carroll, and Selwyn theatres.

The narrow theater entrance at 214 East 14th Street was nestled between two tenements with the bulk of the building (the theater’s auditorium) located on 13th Street side of the property. As vaudeville died out and film became popular, the theater was re-branded as the RKO Jefferson Theatre. The Jefferson operated into the late 1970s as a theater, when it was closed for good. It stood empty for decades and was finally demolished in 2000, creating the empty lot many East Villagers are familiar with today. See below for some photos of the theater in its prime:

The theater when it was a vaudeville house.


The RKO Jefferson Theater in 1936. Image via NYPL.


The interior of the theater. Image via Cinema Treasures.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *