NOVELTY COURT, Williamsburg

by Kevin Walsh

Here’s an attractive brick apartment building at #778 Driggs Avenue between South 3rd and 4th Streets in Brooklyn. I enjoyed the green and gray terra cotta trim at the entrance. The date of construction, 1920, is displayed in a tablet with terra cotta trim above the second floor windows.

I can’t get over that name, though…Novelty Court. Why on earth would the developers of this building give it that name? The answer lies in what was there before the apartment house was built.

According to Cinematreasures, there had been various theater buildings at #778 Driggs, or whatever its previous house number had been, since 1852 when Odeon Hall was constructed there. The theater changed hands often and went through 20 different managements, six of which called it the “Novelty Theater,” “novelty” being a popular name for theaters in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The Novelty passed through various phases, putting on stage shows and then Jewish shows to accommodate immigrants from Manhattan’s Lower East Side. It then showed silent films until finally shutting down in 1916. Apparently some of the bricks of the old Novelty Theatre were used to build the present-day apartment house.

The place also figures in latter-day history because it was on February 3, 1971, Officer Frank Serpico was shot while making a drug bust at #778 Driggs. Later that year, Serpico was a whistleblower shedding light on NYPD corruption at the Knapp Commission.

Check out the ForgottenBook,┬átake a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



spinetingler January 29, 2021 - 9:01 am

Good looking building. Understated, but with attention paid to decorative detail.


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