Queens, holds one of the greatest secret jewels of the city. It’s common to see old theaters re-purposed as gyms, churches, and pharmacies, but Tabernacle of Prayer church is something very special.
Jamaica Ave, Queens has one of New York City’s best kept, and most beautiful, secrets. From stunningly ornate facade to the mind-blowing interior you see in the featured image above, it’s hard to believe you’re in NYC and not on some distant foreign shore.
The 3,500-seat building, formerly Valencia Theater, opened in 1929 as one of five lavish theaters built by “Loew’s Wonder Theatres” outside midtown Manhattan to attract theatergoers to the outer boroughs and northern Manhattan.
John Eberson, the designer of the stunning building, was one of the most influential theater designers in the U.S. With rows of cherub heads, half shells, swirls, and other intricate design elements; the 40-foot-wide facade borrows heavily from Spanish and Mexican baroque style and repeated throughout the building’s extravagant interior.
In 1974, a writer for “The Long Island Press,” named Gerald F. Twohig, wrote:
“The Valencia wasn’t just another movie house, […] It was the greatest of them all in those times when Queens in general and Jamaica in particular were big on movies, […] If you had a heavy date on Saturday night, you went to the Valencia. You proved you had class.”
When theatre audiences declined in the mid to late 70s, the “Valencia” was donated the Tabernacle of Prayer (1977). When the building became a house of worship the church lovingly preserved the vast majority what makes the building special. Besides adding a white cross and turning the naked women (carved into the arch that houses the church’s pulpit) into angels, much of the building is untouched.
In May 1999 it was designated a landmark by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission ensuring the incredible building is preserved for future generations.
Featured image source [afterthefinalcurtain]