Status: Progress Made
07/2010 Update: Local designation was pursued in the past few years but did not get passed, and the owner at that time decided that they could not rehabilitate it as planned. Since then the building has sat in very poor condition. A new owner has now taken ownership and has new plans for rehabilitation. They plan to do partial demolition of the theater on the rear of the building, but the two street facades will be restored. The building remains in a bad state currently, but some debris has been removed. The new owners have bought and restored other large buildings in Paterson in the past, including the hotel adjacent to the Fabian Building. The owner’s past rehabilitation work bodes well for the future of the Fabian Building.
The Fabian theater, named for Paterson philanthropist and theatre-chain owner Jacob Fabian, opened in 1925. With more than three thousand seats, it was one of the largest movie houses in New Jersey. The theatre is in the crotch of a V-shaped building, both of which were designed by Frederick W. Wentworth, a prominent Paterson architect. He planned the theater as a stand-alone building and added the office space that encloses it as an afterthought.
In 1977, the big auditorium was carved into several smaller theater spaces. It continued operating until 1993, but since then the entire building has been mostly vacant.
A developer has been looking at the building, but a recent feasibility study that recommended rehabilitating the office space did not urge preserving the theatre. The Fabian Building is only a key structure in Paterson’s Register-listed Downtown Commercial Historic District because of the theater in its core.
Who knows if a rehabilitated Fabian Theater in Paterson could draw audiences like the Performing Arts Center in Newark or the War Memorial in Trenton. But it always takes vision to imagine a vibrant future in the midst of deteriorating plaster and blown-out windows.
In January 2004, the DEP approved the demolition of the Theater, overturning its earlier temporary denial which was based on the recommendations of the Historic Sites Council to evaluate all preservation possibilities. THe demolition plans will be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Office. The developer is also required to do a HABS level documentation, create an archival record and a museum quality interpretive exhibit documenting the Theater’s history. A parking facility and office space for the Paterson Board of Education is to be built in the area after demolition. The office building will be rehabilitated.
Paterson Historic Preservation Commission
65 McBride Avenue