729 Sixth Avenue
(1886-87, Schwarzmann & Buchman)
The late 19th-century commercial takeover of Sixth Avenue wasn’t limited to just high-end department stores. The area surrounding 23rd Street was once a nexus of theatrical productions, of both vaudeville and legitimate persuasions alike. In 1879, Koster & Bial took over Bryant’s Opera House (established 1870, infamously one of the last minstrel theaters in the city). The partners soon expanded to a 1,200-seat theater on 23rd Street and eventually took up the entire Sixth Avenue frontage as well with a beer garden and a corner annex, which served as a saloon and beer store. The latter’s pediment and corner plaque still proudly advertise “The Corner” and “Koster & Bial.” In 1893, the partners were forced to close their Chelsea operations on charges
of “encouraging prostitution.” A few days later they had opened a new venue on 34th Street (later famous for hosting the city’s first motion picture exhibition in 1896).