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Time Out New York - November 2000
Grand Prospect Hall
You want your wedding to be a classy, Ralph Lauren-style affair? Good for you. The rest of us will get hitched at Brooklyn's Grand Prospect Hall. Imagine Mozart on Ecstasy and you'll begin to grasp the outlandishness of this mammoth, 97-year-old structure. Originally a sort of Friar's Club for Brooklyn social gatherings (the borough's Rifle Club called it home), the building deteriorated with age until it was bought by the Halkias family in 1981.Two decades of restoration have resuscitated its Disney-does-Hapsburg main ballroom, oak-paneled beer hall (where scenes from Prizzi's Honor and The Cotton Club were shot), roof garden and nine other spaces. The place is so big that--God forbid you should get married more than once--you'll have no trouble finding a new room for each special day..
The New York Times - January 1999
"Streetscapes / Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn: Colorful restoration of a 1903 Ballroom/Concert Hall - A Husband and Wife have spent 18 years on the renovation"
By, Christopher Grey
If you marveled at the restoration of Grand Central Terminal and the Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library, you should check out Brooklyn's Grand Prospect Hall, one of New York's most unusual buildings. A husband and wife time has spent 18 years colorfully restoring the 1903 structure, a public concert hall and ballroom at 263 Prospect Avenue on the edge of Park Slope.
According to Cezar Del Valle, a writer, artist and theater historian, the first Prospect Hall was built in 1892 by the developer John Kolle on Prospect Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. The original building was a typical late Victorian public hall--an entertainment complex combining assembly hall, theater, bar, restaurant and lodge rooms. Mr. Del Valle said that Prospect Hall had accommodated 3,000 people in its ballroom/theater alone and had served some 55,000 Brooklynites involved in amateur theater productions at the turn of the century, as well as thousands of others involved with political, social and fraternal clubs.
Prospect Hall burned down in December 1900, the morning after 3,000 Knights of Columbus met in the ballroom. The hall was only partly insured, but distraught Kolle rebuilt it in 1903, making it bigger and better, with an exterior of light brick with limestone trim. The interior included bowling alleys, a billiard room, a German-style oak-paneled beer hall, meeting areas, an open-air roof garden, dining rooms and a 40-foot-high ballroom, 75 feet wide and 125 feet long.
Mr. Del Valle's research shows how the events in these semi-civic buildings sounded the heartbeat of the city: A 1906 political rally by William Randolph Hearst; a 1907 Democratic-Republican debate sabotaged with fraudulent tickets circulated by the Democrats; 1,200 people trying to get in to hear William Jennings Bryan in 1908; a mass meeting of more than 3,500 demanding a subway on Fourth Avenue, also in 1908; addresses by former Gov. Al Smith and Mayor James J. Walker in October 1929; and Works Progress Administration theater presentations in the 1930s.
At the same time, Prospect Hall's complex of meeting, dining and entertaining rooms were host to weddings, balls, anniversaries, and other personal-landmark events. The Brooklyn Quartet Club, the Brooklyn Rifle Club and other organizations called the building home, with special rooms and storage areas for their papers.
An early Prospect Hall advertisement promised "high-class motion pictures and vaudeville" every night, a "country butcher shop" on Tuesdays and a "safe and sane Fourth" celebration on July 4,including a three-reeler of Teddy Roosevelt in South Africa. The heyday of such halls is long past; only the modern shopping mall approximates how important such buildings were to the fabric of life at the turn of the century.
In 1940, the Kolle family sold the hall to a Polish group, and it continued as a meeting place for unions and fraternal societies. But Mr. Del Valle has found evidence that the owners began selling off artwork and architectural elements in the 1960s as they tried to keep the aging hall together.
By 1981 Prospect Hall was almost entirely closed off, with barrels spread throughout the building catching rainwater, while a restaurant operation barely held on in the old beer hall on the ground floor.
The building faced a deep gash made by the construction of Prospect Expressway in the 1950s, it was far from traditional Brooklyn centers and activity, and its future seemed grim. In that year Michael and Alice Halkias, fresh from several real estate projects, bought the structure, optimistically renamed it Grand Prospect Hall and gradually reopened the rest of the building. After almost two decades and "millions of dollars," Mr. Halkias said, the work, mostly seat-of-the-pants preservation, is 90 percent finished.
In retaining the ballroom, Mr. Halkias did not care about the original paint color and made no effort to uncover them. "There's certain colors I like, vaudeville, happy colors--they come into my head," he said. What he calls "Halkias colors" tend to gold and bright pastels of green and pink.
So each piece of fruit in the hundred-odd swags and on the 300 feet of ceiling molding is in a different shade, framed by ivory and, especially, gold. He did not bother with complicated sketches or plans--"I would just be down on the floor, shouting up to the painter," Mr. Halkias said.
The original exterior brick was cream-colored with mottled gray streaks, typical of the period, but Mr. Halkias thought it looked dirty. "We chemically cleaned it five or six times--maybe we burned it--but we finally gave up," he said. Last fall he simply painted the brick tan, white and gold.
Throughout their tenure, Mr. and Mrs. Halkias have been looking for architectural elements and artwork to replace what was lost. "We went crazy looking for paintings," Mrs. Halkias said, but then one day Mr. Halkias was talking about the building with a stranger in a bank line in Bay Ridge--and the stranger mentioned he had bought the Bavarian-style murals that had been removed from the beer hall years earlier. The Halkiases bought them back.
They have worked with artists like Franciszek Kulon, who copies old masterworks--Mr. Kulon did Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" in one day. Copies of works by Watteau, Renoir, Ingres and other artists glisten on the walls of Grand Prospect Hall. On the office bookshelf "Nightclub Tactics Today" shares space with "Renoir: His Life, Art and Letters."
Much of the restoration work is done by an in-house staff that ranges in number from 30 up to 90 in the busy months.
On a busy week there are 20 events. The total capacity is 8,000. Grand Prospect hall has a dozen areas for parties, and several areas are often in use simultaneously. On a recent evening a party filled the ballroom, while in the beer hall, the groom at a wedding bent down to pull his wife"s garter off with his teeth, as relatives and friends laughed and shouted.
The Halkiases also attract concerts, office parties and corporate events and are angling to position Grand Prospect Hall as one of Brooklyn's major historic sites. "When we started, it was a big white elephant with big ears that had to learn new tricks," Mr. Halkias said. "Now we attract people from Rome, Paris, all over." One possible strategy is to enlarge their sizable ballroom-dancing following and, in the couple's words, make the hall "the Roseland of Brooklyn."
Doctrinaire preservationists might cringe over some of the changes, but over two decades the Halkiases' energy and distinctive vision have reclaimed Prospect Hall.
This year they expect to add a 40- by 100-foot greenhouse to the roof garden and replace some façade sculptures missing for 50 years.
Mr. Halkias said that in retrospect he should have paid more attention to the bathrooms, but that he plans to remedy the situation. At a recent meeting he surprised his wife by announcing that he had ordered something they admired on a recent trip to France--20 gold-leaf toilet seats.
The Metro Section - January - 2001
"Palatial Ballroom Evokes Memories of a Bygone Era: Lovingly Restored Monument to City..."
By, Diane Cardwell
Upstairs in the white, French Renaissance-style building looming over the Prospect Expressway in Brooklyn on a recent midweek afternoon, Michael Halkias was showing off the grand ballroom of his catering hall. He pointed out the dolphins, bananas and acanthus flowers nesting in the intricate plasterwork, now painted Miami Beach melon, turquoise and yellow with gold-leaf highlights. He explained the importance of the perfectly aligned boards in the octagonal wood floor, because ballroom dancers need to follow their pattern. And he lingered on the gilded lion heads encircling the ceiling dome that arches over the 10,000-square- foot space.
“I call this an atmospheric theater,” said Mr. Halkias, a real estate developer originally from Pittsburgh. “The gardens outside have been brought inside to entice a visitor to come in and not go out again.
To wander through this room – or almost any other part of the century-old Grand Prospect Hall at 263 Prospect Avenue in Brooklyn – is to be transported to a bygone era of dressing up and stepping out, of speak-easies and swank, of a time when the city was filled with spots to Lindy Hop or tango through the dawn of New Year’s Day.
Once, before the juggernaut of television and movies, when bourgeois social life centered around dining, theater, sporting events and, of course, dancing, most respectable neighborhoods would have at least one elaborate building with rooms that could be rented for all of these functions. “Once upon a time, a lot more of the city’s real estate was available for people to use to create some sort of public life for themselves,” said Marci Reaven, a director of the urban preservationist group Place Matters, a joint project of the Municipal Art Society and City Lore, a cultural organization.
Uptown, there were the storied dance halls of the Jazz Age, like the Rockland Palace, Alhambra and the Savoy, where Harlem’s elite could stomp in the New Year to the smooth strains of Fletcher Henderson’s orchestra. Downtown, at the Palladium or the Arcadia, revelers could take in the American and Latin swing. And in the Bronx there was the Hunts Point Palace, a multiroom, multifunction hall that rivaled the most glamorous nightspots in the city and became a venue for mambo legends like Tito Puente.
So last night, about 100 couples upheld the tradition of whirling the night away, sustained by filet mignon, lobster tails and free-flowing cocktails for $175 a pop. “People are dying for places like this,” Mr. Halkias said. “On New Year’s Eve last year I did a party for Russians and Polish people and they had a heck of a good time doing the ballroom dancing and the modern stuff.”
When Mr. Halkias and his wife, Alice, bought the building, then called Prospect Hall, in 1981, they were mindful of its past and wanted to restore it to its former glory – and then some. Since then, they have poured millions into making it a premier social and entertainment center. “I had a feeling for grand space and I saw this dilapidated structure and followed the challenge to let it be what it used to be and even better,” Mr. Halkias said. “I’m just a nutjob. If I were normal, I wouldn’t have done this.”
And the grand ballroom in Brooklyn stands nearly alone. Few such establishments in the city have dodged the wrecking ball over the decades, and those that remain have fallen into disrepair or have been renovated beyond recognition. The Renaissance Ballroom in Harlem, once home to dances as well as basketball games and wedding receptions, stands unused and faces an uncertain future. The Park Palace and Park Plaza in East Harlem, considered the cradle of Latin dance, is now La Hermosa Christian Church. And the Hunts Point Palace, stripped of its original façade, is now an office building. Of course there is still the Roseland Ballroom in Midtown Manhattan, now an event and concert space, but it resides in a renovated ice rink, not its original location. And many of the other surviving dance halls were not exactly ballrooms to begin with. Irving Plaza near Gramercy Park, which now holds concerts and, on Sunday nights, swing dancing, was a theater hollowed out of four town houses in the 1920’s. And the Amazura Ballroom in Queens, featuring live music and boxing, is the old Jamaica Arena, originally built for prize fights. But as far as the people who spend their time thinking about these things can say, only the Grand Prospect Hall essentially remains itself. “The Grand Prospect Hall has just been lucky,” said Cezar Del Valle, a theater historian.
When Prospect Hall was first built in 1892 by the developer John Kolle, it was a typical Victorian amusement palace for what Mr. Halkias calls the “gold coast society of Park Slope in Brooklyn.” It burned down in 1900, and Mr. Kolle rebuilt it three years later on an even grander scale. When it reopened, it had a beer hall, meeting and lodge rooms, bowling alleys, bars, a shooting range, a roof garden, and, at its center, the enormous dance hall.
Through the first half of the century, Prospect Hall was a center for civic life as well as leisure activities. In 1908, William Jennings Bryan made a campaign stop there, and in 1914 the Women’s Suffrage Party began its national campaign. Local organizations, including a singing group and a gun club, kept offices there. The hall even housed a motion picture company until 1906.
But the great attraction of the hall was always its ballroom, used for dancing, movies, vaudeville, boxing and cabaret. Al Capone attended regularly. In the 1930’s, Mr. Del Valle said, there were Works Progress Administration theater productions and, throughout the swing era, dances every Saturday night.
“That was the big place – like the Roseland for Brooklyn,” said Theresa Russo, 77, who grew up in South Brooklyn and remembers attending a masquerade ball at Prospect Hall with her parents when she was about 5. When she was old enough, she would go regularly to dance the waltz or the Peabody (a fast fox trot). Her husband, Anthony, 79, popped the question in the oak room downstairs in 1948, and the couple held their wedding reception for 900 in the grand ballroom.
Jean Fiore, 71, who met her husband, Louis, at the hall in 1948 said: “That was the big hall with the big bands where everybody went. Sunday night, you’d go to a movie or a dance, and Saturday night you’d go to a movie or a dance. You were always out socializing with the same basic group of people.” Mr. Fiore, 78, added: “We mostly went out in Brooklyn because back then there were enough places to go.”
By the 1950’s, though, as television and the movies began to rival dancing as mass entertainment, Prospect Hall was in decline. The expressway had walled off the area and the residents began moving to the suburbs.
Still, the White Eagle Society, a national organization for Polish immigrants, which bought the building in 1940 and used it as a community center, continued to hold dances and concerts through the 1970’s, even as the building and the neighborhood deteriorated. When the Halkiases bought it in 1981, renaming it the Grand Prospect Hall, rain leaked through the roof and chunks of plaster were missing. “It was a sad sight,” Mr. Halkias said. Since then, the couple has poured several million dollars – they will not say exactly how much – into a kind of on-the-fly restoration, recreating molding in a basement workshop, installing reproductions of old master paintings and salvaging fixtures like crystal chandeliers from other halls that have closed.
It may not be by the book, but preservationists and historians say that part of the importance of saving buildings like Grand Prospect Hall is that, like the fossil record, they hold physical evidence of the public lives they have housed. “In a way, it shows how democratic a place was,” said David M. Carp, a music archivist and amateur historian. “You see how many ethnic groups have used a place. I don’t know if you see that anymore.”
At the Grand Prospect, for example, in the original beer hall on the first floor, which will open as a restaurant by the end of this month, figures painted on the tiger-oak-paneled walls stand in mute testimony to its German heritage: a blond maiden serving beer; Theodore Roosevelt depicted, disrespectfully, with his bottom facing forward in protest against the president’s policies toward Germany.
These days, the hall survives on a steady diet of weddings, corporate events and mass media productions. It has appeared in movies (“The Cotton Club”, “Prizzi’s Honor”), music videos by Foxy Brown, Eve and Anthrax and television commercials. The Halkiases are also trying to capitalize on the resurgence of ballroom dancing, holding two competitions a year, as well as a number of other events. Those who have danced there say it is unique in the city. “It really hits you when you have a space as big as the Grand Prospect,” said Yang Chen, 36, a lawyer who is vice president of the Manhattan Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association and has competed at the hall. “It’s a space that inspires you to live up to its grandeur. It does something to your performance, especially because it is so over-the-top.”
Mrs. Fiore, who celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary at the hall last month, said she was stunned to see how elaborate it had become since 1948. “It was a big dance hall then – nothing fancy,” she said. Her husband recalled, “They had a bar where you could go if you didn’t want to dance and have a drink, you know, and then you’d get up enough nerve to ask someone to dance.”
On the night Mr. Fiore saw his future wife, wearing a clingy, green tissue-faille dress, he managed to find that nerve. Mrs. Fiore remembered, “You said I fit into your arms so nice.”
Of the dance hall, Mr. Fiore said: “There’s nothing like that anymore. I guess as we’ve progressed with our lives, we’re really lost something.”
Park Slope Courier - December 2002
"Hollywood Dines on Brooklyn Locales: Borough Restaurants Featured on The Big Screen"
Look familiar? You may never have dined in the majestic ballroom of the Grand Prospect Hall. You may never have peered across the East River from a window seat at the River Care…and yet.
No it’s not déjà vu, and you’re not having a transcendental premonition. You actually have seen these locales before – on the big screen.
Over the years, Brooklyn has provided Hollywood studios and independent filmmakers with a look – or make that the look. It’s a look, a feel, a texture that simply can not be duplicated with some prefab construction on a Los Angeles back lot. It’s style, it’s character, it’s keepin’ it real – and it abounds among Brooklyn’s dining establishments.
Recently, some new editions have been added to the Brooklyn restaurant film archives. Lily’s on Third Avenue in Bay Ridge was the backdrop for the independent film "Eurotrash." The cast and crew of "Eurotrash" - a film about five young European con-artists who rip off American tourists in a sick and twisted game – spent an October day in the Bay Ridge restaurant shooting. Those scenes, from a feature length script, will be used to make a promotional film to raise funds for a full feature. With some artifacts here, and some drapes there, Lily’s was transformed into an Eastern European café to shoot several scenes.
Martin Bradley, founder of Lily’s and Bay Ridge resident, is a co-producer and the art director for "Eurotrash." Bradley’s co-producers include sister Laura Morand Baily and brother-in-law David Baily of Park Slope, making "Eurotrash" a family affair. Additional scenes from the film were also shot in the alley adjacent to the Salty Dog, a Bay Ridge bar and restaurant a few blocks north of Lily’s on Third Avenue.
Also this fall, Sandra Bullock and Huge Grant wined, dined and did their lines at the River Café, while filming "Two Weeks Notice." River Café General Manager Scott Stamford said the cast and crew spent an entire day filming, and at the end of the shoot all had a chance to enjoy the River Café’s cuisine – known and loved throughout the city.
"A lot of them who weren’t from here hadn’t heard of us and they really loved the food," said Stamford. "Now we continue to get calls from them for reservations when they’re in New York." "Two Weeks Notice" was the last film shot at the River Café, but not the only. Scenes from "Splash" and "Terms of Endearment" were also shot at the river front restaurant under the Brooklyn Bridge.
And while the River Café and Lily’s are the latest Brooklyn bistros to make it to the big screen, many proceeded them.
This summer Woody Allen and crew spent several days along Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay, using Pip’s Comedy Club and Mario and Luigi’s as backdrops for his spring 2003 release, tentatively titled "Anything Else." At Mario & Luigi’s Allen shot scenes on the restaurant’s outdoor patio. The Allen pic was not the first filmed at the Emmons Avenue Italian eatery. About two years ago scenes from "The Dummy," an independent film starring Adrian Brodie, who also appeared in "The Summer of Sam," was also shot at Mario & Luigi’s.
While Mario and Luigi’s has hosted a couple of shoots, The Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope is a regular stop for Hollywood producers.
Over the past two decades the Grand Prospect Hall has played host to such high-profile releases as "The Cotton Club," "Prizzi’s Honor, "The Royal Tenenbaums," and "Last Exit to Brooklyn."
Grand Prospect Hall owner Michael Halkias characterized these on-site shoots as "hectic" and said he was amazed at how often and how much cast and crew ate.
"When they filmed the ‘Cotton Club’ there were about 300 to 500 people here for about 15 days," Halkias said. "And they ate all day, and lots of sweets. They were always munching on something," he recalled laughing.
And what are the movie stars really like? Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, Angelica Houston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Richard Gere have all appeared in films shot at the Grand Prospect Hall. Halkias, for one, has especially fond memories of "Cotton Club" star Gregory Hines. "He was a really down to earth guy;" Halkias said. "He was a great mixer, talked to anyone and took a lot of pictures with everyone here."
While Grand Prospect Hall and the River Café might be Brooklyn’s movie location kings, there are plenty of other Brooklyn restaurants which have had major and cameo roles on the big screen including Junior’s on the Flatbush Avenue Extension and Brooklyn’s famous land marked restaurant Gage & Toliner on Fulton Street.
Brooklyn Bridge Magazine - October 1999
"Splendor in the Grand"
By, Louis Sakany
Late on a hot summer afternoon, guests are just beginning to arrive at The Grand Prospect Hall for a wedding ceremony and reception. Two trumpeters stand in full uniform on either side of the entrance and announce each of the 350 guests as they pass into the foyer where the cream-colored walls are festooned with gold-leafed molding and sparkling mirrors.
The guests quickly spread out to the first floor's Chopin and Viennese Rooms to wait for the festivities to begin. Garlands of vividly painted plaster flowers and fruit border the pink and white walls. Full-scale oil paintings, done in the manner of Watteau, Reynolds and Gainsborough (there's even a copy of "Blue Boy") hang on the wall. The richly molded ceiling is painted pink and sea green, and pink velvet swags across the mirrored arches. Some of the wedding guests wander next door into the Queen's room, a more intimate setting, much like an antechamber to the palace's throne room. Tiny square tables draped in pale pink cloth surround four faux-marbled columns. The enormous crystal chandelier reflects a serene, sea-colored light from the turquoise green walls. In each of the three rooms, buffet tables are loaded with polished brass serving plates laden with hot and cold hors d'oeuvres. When it comes time for the ceremony, everyone heads up the grand staircase--a fairy-tale confection of marble and gold-leaf, sparkling with what seems like a thousand lights from the chandeliers. Six violinists serenade the guests as they ascend to the Skylight Room where the young couple will be married in a traditional Jewish ceremony. Between two enormous silver chandeliers hanging from the white tin ceiling, the long skylight casts a pearly radiance over the ceremony.
On one side of the Skylight Room, glass doors open onto a lovely balcony full of trees and flowers. On the opposite side, five oak-framed doorways lead into the Grand Ballroom. Beneath the ceiling's magnificent central dome, within the horseshoe arena of the oval dance floor, before the old vaudeville stage where "WELCOME" is exuberantly scripted on an enormous medallion on the proscenium arch, and between the two tiers of baroquely decorated and painted balconies, the wedding guests will dance and feast until the wee hours of the morning.
Comments Michael Halkias, owner of The Grand Prospect Hall, "These people are in seventh heaven. They jump and dance and hop and they are very happy. They relive their teen years."
On another day, a more studious crowd of about 30 gathers in the Oak Room to attend a slide show and lecture on the history of movie theaters in Brooklyn. Both the Oak Room and the lounge next door are paneled in beautifully restored tiger oak. The rooms used to serve as a tavern and beer hall and are furnished with the original heavy oak tables and bentwood chairs; the old service bells are still on the walls above the tables. Wonderful cartoon figures painted on the paneling (and discovered when the wood was stripped of its black paint) lend a sense of old mischief to the room. There's even a tart political comment from the rooms' bygone days among them--Teddy Roosevelt with his rump painted to face forward. Above the paneling--and original to the room--are paintings depicting Bavarian scenes, such as a comely maiden spilling out of her peasant blouse while hoisting beer steins and a wealthy family hunting a buck.
The guest lecturer, theater historian Cezar Del Valle, begins the program with a brief history on The Grand Prospect Hall. Halkias, who became the building's third owner, when he and his wife Alice Halkias purchased it in 1981, occasionally breaks in to expand on a point or to rib Del Valle for lingering too long over unsavory portions of the building's history. When, for example, Del Valle mentions that the original Prospect Hall, which was built and owned by the German-born developer John Kolle in 1892, burned down in 1900, Halkias jokes, "He keeps talking about the fire. Always the fire. This fire was more than 100 years ago."
The fire in many ways is what makes the hall what it is today. Kolle chose to rebuild a much grander hall and hired Ulrich Huberty, a noted architect who also designed the Prospect Park Picnic House, to design the French Renaissance-style building that stands on Prospect Avenue between Fifth and Sixth avenues today. When it was built, Prospect Hall was the tallest building in Brooklyn. It was also the first in Brooklyn to have electricity. A large crowd gathered to watch the first flick of the light switch.
In the early part of the century, the hall served as a lively town center that offered not only entertainment, but a place to meet and get word of current events. A visitor to the hall might attend a play one night and a wedding reception the next. In addition to the hall's complex of meeting, dining and entertainment rooms, there was a bowling alley in the basement and a shooting range. The dances that took place there on a weekly basis usually sold out.
A variety of organizations and clubs held office space in the hall, including The Brooklyn Quartet Club and The Brooklyn Rifle Club. In 1908, it was home to the Crescent Motion Picture Company, which was run by a member of the Kolle family. There was even a Masonic Lodge (The Seven Times Wise Lodge) housed in a room on the top floor in what is now called the Grandview Room, yet another lavishly appointed space with a sweeping view of Manhattan and the bay. "If you lived in Brooklyn, and you belonged to a club or an organization, you met there," says Del Valle.
The hall was also a mandatory stop for candidates running for office who would speak to the crowd from the ballroom's stage. In 1908, according to Del Valle, the crowd of 1,200 that turned out to hear presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan speak overflowed on to the street where they managed to temporarily shut down traffic on Fifth Avenue. Political rallies took place there as well. In 1908, a mass meeting of more than 3,500 came to demand a subway on Fourth Avenue and, in 1914, The Women's Suffrage Party chose the hall to kick off their national campaign.
"Even as late as 1929, The Brooklyn Eagle called it one of the borough's principle sources of amusement," says Del Valle. Prospect Hall stayed in the Kolle family until it was sold in 1940 to a Polish organization called The White Eagle Society. "By this time," comments Del Valle, "The hall was starting to get drab and its great years were nearing their end."
The Depression pushed the hall into further decline that was exacerbated in the '50s when many of the neighborhood?s longtime residents and hall regulars fled Brooklyn for the suburbs. Insult was added to injury when the Prospect Expressway was plunked down literally across the street from the hall. Built under the direction of controversial city planner Robert Moses, the expressway effectively sliced the neighborhood in two, limiting, to this day, both foot traffic and the potential for cohesive development.
During the '60s and '70s, in order to cover basic costs, the buildings? owners began selling off bits and pieces of the hall. According to Del Valle, "The Daily News reported an offer of $1,200 for a mural in the main ladies powder room."
After Del Valle finished his lecture, Halkias takes everyone on a tour. It's as if a proud parent with a flair for showmanship has suddenly taken center stage. Halkias speaks of the hall in glowing terms, his arms sweeping the air as he points out his favorite features. The hall has come a long way since the day Halkias and his wife Alice made the decision to purchase it. Since then, the two of them have devoted themselves to restoring (some would say surpassing) the grandeur of the hall's glory days, renaming it The Grand Prospect Hall in the process.
After a brief glimpse at Halkias' own rich background, it becomes clear why he not only felt an immediate affinity with the hall, but was able to direct it restoration with such ebullient flair. Born in Pittsburgh in 1938, at the age of three, he was, as he puts it "exported to Greece with my father." With the arrival of German troops, he fled in the middle of the night with his father, who was a member of the Resistance. Halkias remembers, "He stuck me on his back, and we went up the mountains and across the bay to Turkey."
Eventually Halkias ended up living in Syria with a family that included 16 to 18 children. When the war ended, he returned to Greece where he lived with his father until he was 18. In 1956, he returned to the United States and was reunited with his mother and sister for the first time in 16 years. From that point on, Halkias lived by what he describes as the American immigrant philosophy, "You have to improve yourself, to always push for a few steps above."
By the time Halkias was 20, he had learned enough English to pass a high school equivalency test and gain admission to Holy Cross College in Boston. "In the summer, I worked as a painter," says Halkias, "I painted bridges, hotels, department stores. I became a superstar painter. At the same time, I learned about plumbing and electrical wiring."
Not long after finishing school, Halkias moved to New York where he first worked for a Greek newspaper. Soon, he switched to a better paying position at a travel agency where he eventually met his wife. The couple married in 1966 and started their own travel business, eventually expanding to three agencies. At the same time, Halkias published a Greek newspaper, ran an employment agency and hosted a weekly Greek radio program. "My environment taught me speed," says Halkias, "My mother is the same way, a demon business lady."
In the mid-'70s, the Halkiases added real estate to their list of enterprises, and that led them to Prospect Hall. "A friend mentioned the hall to us in 1981 and we came to see it," Alice recalls. On their first visit, the agent showing them the building would not allow them past the main staircase. Determined, they returned a second time. Halkias recalls the utter joy he felt upon walking up the hall's staircase and entering the Grand Ballroom.
"It was an overwhelming experience. I was jumping up and down yelling, 'I have to buy this building!'"? And while Alice thought he was joking, Mr. Halkias knew he had "all the skills that I needed to put the building together. I was artistic and knew how I could make the hall beautiful."
While a series of books could be written on the couple's backbreaking restoration effort, Halkias is clearly not interested in dwelling on the subject. When, for example, he tells his tour group about stripping layers of black paint on the walls and bar in the Oak Room, one is not struck by the difficulty of such an undertaking, but the delight Halkias felt upon discovering the small cartoons under the black paint.
Halkias also spent countless hours tracking down original items that had been sold off in the hall's gloomier days. One day, while standing in a bank line, he began a discussion with the man in front of him who, as it turned out, had bought the Oak Room's murals. Halkias quickly arranged to buy them back and returned them to their original places.
What he couldn't restore or buy, he simply commissioned. Leading the tour up the marble staircase, Halkias points out the murals on either side. He hired Russian-born artist Vladimir Poutchkov to portray a lively ballroom scene. Poutchkov scattered among the dancers the faces of Halkias' friends and family, as well as his ex-secretary, Luciano Pavarotti and Hillary Clinton.
Upon entering the ballroom, which sits at the top of the staircase, the tour group is awed. In addition to the sheer size of the room--it is 45 feet high, 70 feet wide and 125 feet long--the ceiling moldings and plaster fretwork of carved fruits, flowers and dramatic faces decorating the double balconies are painstakingly painted in a spectrum of bright colors. When Halkias momentarily steps out of the room, guests begin to murmur among themselves. And while one woman declares the room "tacky city," when Halkias returns and the room swells with waltz music, she amends her criticism, "Though obviously he adores this place and it's very contagious."
Later, in his office Halkias brushes off critics who view the gold-leafing and bright color schemes that permeate the hall as over the top or inauthentic. From a shelf full of books on art and architecture, he pulls out one on the history of the motion picture industry and turns to a chapter on movie palaces. He points out a passage in the book which explains that the halls built during the same period as The Grand Prospect Hall were designed to be "atmospheric theaters" where patrons came not only for entertainment, but for the sheer enjoyment of their grand environment. "Many people thought I was a stupid immigrant when they saw the colors, but they later came to see that there was another side. The Grand Ballroom," he says "is an atmospheric theater designed to make people want to come inside and enjoy themselves."
As a testament to the Halkias? efforts, the hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places last April. But the hall's historical significance was recognized earlier when, in 1983, Borough President Howard golden proclaimed March 10 as the annual Grand Prospect Hall Day in Brooklyn. In presenting the proclamation, Golden stated, "One of my dreams of a convention center in Brooklyn has come to life at The Grand Prospect Hall, Brooklyn's Victorian Palace," Just last year, Golden again presented Halkias with a Brooklyn History Award for his work in preserving the borough's past.
And while the hall may not pull the same crowds it did as the turn of the century, there continues to be a steady stream of weddings, anniversaries, corporate events and office parties, sometimes all celebrating simultaneously in the building's many rooms. A new addition this year is an outdoor garden, complete with a magnificent waterfall and pool leading to a secluded terrace. As in its past, The Grand Prospect Hall, which has a total capacity of 8,000, continues to reflect the diversity of the borough in which it is located. Halkias proudly ticks off the endless list of nationalities that have used the hall. Movie-making has also returned to the hall. Prizzi's Honor, The Cotton Club and Foxy Brown's latest video were filmed in the ballroom and Oak Room.
Later this month, in a trip down memory lane, the hall will host an anniversary party for Theresa and Anthony Russo, who held both their engagement and wedding parties in the hall 50 years ago.
"We had 900 people in the ballroom," says Anthony Russo. In contrast to the lavish affairs hosted in the hall today, large weddings like theirs were often dubbed "football weddings," he says, because "all the sandwiches were in one place and family members would wrap them up and throw them across the room to each other."
In addition to his own parties, Russo estimates that he and his wife have attended at least a dozen wedding parties at the hall for friends and family members. On returning for the first time in years, Russo comments, "Just walking through those doors brought back a lot of memories."
Courier Life - August 1998
"Impeccable Wedding Locale & Much, Much More"
By, Helen Klein
To step through the portal of The Grand Prospect Hall is to edge backward in time, to a gilded age when romance flourished, elegance was de rigueur, and grace and graciousness, hand in hand, gave form to everyday living and made special occasions events to be savored.
One of Brooklyn's true classics, The Grand Prospect Hall (263 Prospect Avenue; 788-0777) celebrates the glamour of times gone by while catering to the needs of its clientele in the most up-to-date fashion.
With its curving staircase, its gilded cherubs, its impeccably restored floral reliefs, the building, which was built in 1892 as a German opera house, has long been a favorite of brides-to-be, who dream of fairy-tale weddings in the hall's balconied Grand Ballroom, which can accommodate up to 2,000 guests, or in the venerable structure's more intimate spaces: such as the Grandview Room, whose expanse of windows frames a breathtaking view of New York Harbor and the Manhattan skyline, or the pastel-hued Chopin Room.
As magical a place as The Grand Prospect Hall already is, general manager Michael Halkias is constantly at work, creating new environments to enhance the building.
Newest of all is the balustraded Plaza with its expansive gazebo--easily turned into a wedding chapel--at one end. Coming soon is a greenhouse addition to the Plaza, which will turn this stunning outdoor terrace into a space for all seasons.
"The Plaza," emphasized Halkias, "offers a unique classical setting amongst trees, flowers and fancy plants. Up till now, people looking for this sort of facility had to go to Long Island. Guests would have a long trip, and could even get lost and miss part of the event. By creating this outside space in Prospect Hall, we are resolving, to a degree, the problems of people seeking spaces too far outside Brooklyn."
And, Prospect Hall's culinary offerings are as diverse as the people who make up its clientele. Brooklyn is the quintessential melting pot, noted Halkias, and the chefs at Prospect Hall are adept at preparing not only classical French and Italian cuisine, but the cuisines of virtually every ethnic group living in Brooklyn—from Russian to Caribbean, Oriental to Polish to Arab. "We can meet any gourmet type of need that our clients may have," added Halkias.
However, Halkias stressed, The Grand Prospect Hall, whose clientele comes from all five boroughs, is far more than a classic Brooklyn wedding spot. It is an ideal location for corporate events and fund-raisers, whose organizers have a wide range of rooms from which to choose, from the Grand Ballroom to the distinguished wood-paneled Oak Room, to the Speakeasy, with its long wooden bar.
"This is a very large facility, centrally located," he emphasized, "with an upscale look and spectacular grounds." However, he added, until the opening of the Marriott Renaissance Hotel some months back, it was the only facility of its kind in Brooklyn.
"The Marriott is a welcome addition to the hospitality industry in Brooklyn," Halkias stated, adding that he considered the opening of the hotel, "an opportunity for further developing the borough's hospitality industry, which has been so seriously neglected by so many people for so many years."
"All the major fund-raisers used to go to the major hotels in Manhattan," Halkias continued. "Now, the Marriott will be a strong ally to Prospect Hall and other Brooklyn businesses, creating a stronger marketplace. People's consciousness of the Brooklyn marketplace has risen. As more people understand that Brooklyn is its own marketplace, and has to be supported, more money will be spent in Brooklyn.
Noting, "We work closely with the New York City Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce," Halkias emphasized, "This is not just a fancy wedding place. We serve the needs of the corporate world."
In addition, Halkias noted that the Grand Prospect Hall, which has been the setting for numerous movies, including Prizzi's Honor and The Cotton Club, as well as videos and commercials, is host, at least four times a year, to amateur and professional ballroom dancing competitions.
"There has been a resurgence of interest in close dancing," he remarked. "People have become more romantic, and are looking for the opportunity to dance together.
"This is very important for the entire city," said Halkias. "We bring in people from all over. There's a lot of excitement and sentiment that goes on around this activity of ours. Prospect Hall has become Brooklyn's Roseland."
New York News Day - May 1993
"Brooklyn Diary: Venerable Landmark Celebrates Centennial"
By, Merle English
The anecdotes could well be clues for a game of Trivial Pursuit.
When opera aficionado Al Capone was living in Brooklyn, he reportedly enjoyed operettas in its gilded opera house.
And it was during an altercation in its great hall that Capone reputedly received the facial wound that earned him the nickname of Scarface.
The source of these bits of Brooklyn lore is The Grand Prospect Hall located at 263 Prospect Avenue in Windsor Terrace.
The venerable establishment--known for its sumptuous French-Renaissance décor, two-tiered Victorian ballroom with a domed ceiling and full stage, banquet rooms, a grand marble staircase at the front entrance, stained glass, oak paneling, antique furnishings, brass and gold-leaf touches and panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty--celebrates its centennial this year.
In its heyday in the Roaring Twenties and into the 1940s, The Grand Prospect Hall was at the center of the borough's social and political life. But the landmark catering and entertainment spot went into decline in the 1970s and up to a decade ago its fortunes were uncertain. Its elegant rooms housed flea markets and basketball courts when real estate businessman Michael Halkias and his wife, Alice, of Bay Ridge, saved it from the wreckers' ball.
The couple bought the building in 1982 and spent millions of dollars restoring it to its former glory. A storehouse of Brooklyn history that might have been lost forever was saved and has become part of the borough's resurgence.
During its history, the four-story edifice racked up a number of firsts. When it was built, it was the tallest building in Brooklyn. It was the first public building to be electrified. A French birdcage Otis elevator that is still functioning was the first passenger elevator installed in the borough.
And the Grand Prospect hall was also the first building in the state to meet new fire codes.
Its first owner and builder, John Kolle, envisioned his edifice as "a spectacular temple of music and amusement that would set a standard of entertainment and elegance."
Indeed, the building became the setting for many grand occasions. The Italian community hosted a ball there honoring opera star Enrico Caruso. Lena Horne performed there as a teenager. In recent years the location was the set for such films as Prizzi's Honor and Cyndi Lauper's video True Colors. The Cotton Club was filmed in the speakeasy.
In addition to the speakeasy, the Halkiases retained other vestiges of the landmark's glorious past when they restored the structure.
Painted-over miniature oil paintings of The Grand Prospect Hall habituees adorn the wall of the recently restored Bavarian-style Oak Room restaurant and supper club. A peephole remains in the door to the speakeasy as well as a secret door to the speakeasy's men's room. Two ticket booths with concealed entrances survive from the grand ballroom's days as an opera house.
On a recent tour of the facility, a visitor, struck by the gleaming wooden floors, was told they are sanded and lacquered every month. Sterling silver candlesticks and chafing dishes catch the eye. Modern reproductions of period paintings add Old World charm.
A busy venue for weddings, one room of the building is transformed into a chapel for weddings.
On weekends, a 17-piece band recalls the Big Band era. Patrons can also dance to disco music or listen to jazz.
Halkias said he decided to restore the place because "you could see through the disaster the grandeur of the facility and the history of Brooklyn which reminded you of the aura and elegance of the Empire State."
"It was a challenge for me to put it together," he said. "A crazy challenge," he quipped.
But he added more seriously, "I wanted to restore it for the people of Brooklyn. It was built as a convention center to serve the social and political needs fo the people of Brooklyn and it did this all these 100 years."
As for his plans for the future, Halkias said, "It is going to be more active in the community."
English Language Greek Newspaper - Early 1980's
By, Christine Eliopoulos
When the sun would beat down in Brooklyn, the silk parasols would go up. Young men in seersucker suits would accompany their lady friends on a stroll among the shady paths of a nearby park. On their way to the park, pairs of lovers would stop to listen to piano music drifting through the open windows of Prospect Hall. A grand building with a façade of sculptured pediments, Doric columns, and stained glass, Prospect Hall was the area's exclusive center for arts and entertainment. Young couples would stand by the iron gates and watch the elite of Brooklyn step down from their buggies and walk through the elaborate glass doors.
The socialites would gather in the entranceway to exchange how-do-you-dos and pleasantries about the afternoon's scheduled amusements--a piano recital and poetry reading in the Chopin Room for the Ladies and bowling and billiards for the gentlemen. As they chatted, sunlight would pass through the crystal ornaments of the large chandelier and create bands of color on the velveteen wallpaper. Gowns would rustle as each lady, her gloved hand placed on the mahogany handrail, would walk up the marble steps. The ladies would watch their reflections and wonder if their noses needed powdering or if their lips were red enough. Later on, they would meet their paramours in the garden for some tea and a ride on the Ferris wheel. .
Almost 90 years later, Prospect Hall is once again animated with the flicker of lights, the sound of waltz music from the Grand Ballroom, and cheerful conversation as visitors enjoy smokey souchong tea and pastries in the hall's restaurant, the Oak Room.
Owner Michael Halkias, and his team of painters, carpenters and refinishing experts have restored Prospect Hall's 12 banquet and dancing halls to their original beauty.
For art lovers, a tour of Prospect Hall is like discovering the Pharoah's room of hidden treasures. One revels in the building's rococo and art deco architecture, the frescoes, stained glass windows, Tiffany lamps, and the art nouveau brass chandeliers.
"The grandeur is here," said Halkias. "This is a lost part of Victorian Brooklyn that we have brought back for all to enjoy. Perhaps this project will signal the turnaround of Brooklyn."
Built in 1892 as Brooklyn?s convention center, Prospect Hall was also the favorite meeting place of Brooklyn charity and school-related organizations. The building was destroyed by fire in 1900, but was rebuilt the same years according to the original specifications.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - October 1901
"New Prospect Hall: An architectural addition to South Brooklyn that will rival Amusement Halls in the City"
Brooklyn is to have another handsome music hall. When Prospect Hall, the place made famous by the number of political conventions held there, is rebuilt on Fifteenth Street, near Fifth Avenue, it will be one of the finest halls of amusement that the city has ever known and will be unique inasmuch as it will not only contain a handsome theater and music hall, but will have accommodation for nearly every form of amusement that can be contained in one building, as well as an open air garden next to it with an electric tower and Ferris wheel, etc. There will be the only roof garden in Brooklyn, the highest in the whole city owing to the altitude of the locality and the height of the structure itself.
Prospect Hall was burned down some time ago, and John Kolle made up his mind that when he rebuilt it he would see to it that South Brooklyn had a temple of music and amusement that would be a credit to the locality. Ulrich J. Huberty received the award among several competing architects, and Senator Joseph Wagner received the contract for building, equipping, etc. A first-class vaudeville show will be given in the main theater during the winter and continued on the roof garden in the summer. No money will be spared to make this structure the finest as well as the safest of its kind in the city. It will be the first to be erected under the new and stringent building laws.
The size of the building will be 75 feet front by 215 feet deep and four stories high. The style of architecture, both exterior and interior, is modern French Renaissance. The material of the exterior will be white brick, with Indiana limestone trimmings. The basement will be equipped with ten bowling alleys, a billiard room, laundry and kitchen. The boilers, engines and electric dynamos will be placed outside of the building under the sidewalk.
The first floor is to be occupied by restaurant club room, "alt Deutsch" bier stube, bar room, women's parlor and a large banquet hall, which will be about 68 feet by 80 feet in size, and which will be absolutely free and clear of columns. This is made possible by spanning the banquet hall with large plate girders which support the ballroom above. One of the main features of the first floor, in fact of the entire building, will be the fine central entrance, which well be 18 feet wide and have a grand staircase of marble leading up to the second floor loggias at the ball room entrance. These loggias will be enhanced with royal Irish green marble columns and beautifully decorated cornices and ceilings.
The second floor in the front part of the building is said to be occupied by a café, loggias, cloakrooms and a handsome parlor, which will be elegantly furnished and decorated. The third floor in the front part of the building is said to be occupied by three large and handsome reception rooms, parlors, and cloak rooms, which will be used for small receptions, etc. The fourth floor in front is to be occupied by two lodge rooms with auxiliary ante and preparation rooms. These lodge rooms are to be equipped in first-class style and will be richly decorated. Access to the lodge rooms on the fourth floor will be by means of large electric elevator and separate staircase, which will also lead to the main floor of the ballroom and to the balcony and gallery. In addition to the central entrance mentioned, there will be separate entrances on each side of the building, one leading to elevators, hall and lodge rooms and the other leading to the ball room and annex hall.
The ball room will occupy the entire rear of the building and will be located on the second floor. It will be 68 feet by 125 feet in size, the largest in the city. The ceiling, which will be 40 feet above the floor, is to be enriched by a large electrical dome 35 feet in diameter. Besides this, there will be two smaller domes and handsome coved cornices. There will also be a balcony and gallery, which will extend along both sides and across the rear, supported by highly polished royal Irish green marble columns and gilded capitals. The balcony will be divided into 26 boxes, in addition to which there will be four large proscenium boxes.
Both balcony and gallery are planned in the shape of a horseshoe, and as special attention and a great amount of study has been devoted to acoustic qualities and sight lines, it is expected that the room will very nearly perfect in this respect. There will be large marble staircases on each side of the ball room leading up to the balcony and gallery.
The building is among the first of its kind in the greater city to be built under the new law and will therefore be absolutely fireproof and have a great number of exits. The ball room alone, including balcony and gallery, will have 19 exits, 15 of which will be for fire purpose only, opening out onto large covered balcony and stair fire escapes, which will lead directly out onto the street through ten feet wide open corridors on each side of the building. In addition there will be many fire exits in the front part of the building, leading from lodge rooms, reception rooms, etc.
Special attention will be paid to the decoration of the ballroom and it is expected that the balcony and gallery fronts, also the proscenium arch, all of which will be of composition material, will compare favorably as to artistic merit with any in the city. In the rear of the ball room there will be a perfectly equipped stage with fly galleries, rigging loft and all other auxiliaries of a modern stage, also six commodious dressing rooms, all of which will be fireproof. There will be distinct fire exits for the stage. The building will be protected against fire by a sprinkling system, besides which there will be casks, buckets, ladders, hooks and axes in various parts of the building.
The heating and ventiliating of the building will be on the most approved lines and the lighting of the entire building will be most brilliant and especially will this be the case in the ball room, where an endless variety of effects are to be provided.
The fact that there will be 2,000 sixteen candle power electric in the building gives some idea of the brilliant effect which will be attained. Contracts call for the completion of the building by February 1, 1902. Work is now progressing and is well underway. The cost of the building without equipment, will be $150,000.
Mr. Huberty, the architect, is at present constructing the new $80,000 crematory in the Borough of Queens, also the new building for the United National Bank at 42nd Street and Broadway
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - February 1903
"Prospect Hall Dedicated: New and Gorgeous Place of Entertainment Erected under theater building laws, Formally Opened"
The new Prospect Hall, Prospect Avenue near Fifth Avenue, was formally opened last evening with a reception and ball given by the proprietors John Kolle and his son, William Kolle. The present structure occupies the site of the old hall, which was destroyed by fire in the early morning of December 11, 1897. The flames in the ruins were hardly extinguished before Mr. Kolle set to work making arrangements for the construction of a modern, fireproof building, which would eclipse all other buildings of its kind in the city. Today the hall is completed in all its beauty and security and stands as a monument to his enterprise. The hall is 75 feet wide and 215 feet deep. The exterior, which is designed in the style of the modern French Renaissance, is constructed of light gray brick and Indiana limestone trimmings. It has a handsome cornice with large pediment over the center, which is enriched with pretty sculptural decoration, the models of which were so large that it required ten tons of modeling clay to form them.
Prospect Hall is the first hall building in Greater New York to be erected under the new theater building laws and complies with all the requirements as to large and numerous exits, exit courts, etc. In the basement are the boilers, electric generation plant, refrigerating plant, steam and gas engines and elevator machinery. On the first floor there is a large central entrance with marble and ornamental iron staircase leading to the ball room. The restaurant and the sitting room occupy the front of the building on the second floor. The banquet hall is said to be large enough to accommodate at least a thousand diners. The ballroom is decorated throughout with applied relief ornament, and in addition to beauty the matter of safety has been exceptionally well provided for, as there are no less than 20 distinct exits, all leading to the street or exit courts. The columns supporting the balcony and gallery are of polished Mycenaean marble. There is an ornamental dome in the center of the ceiling, with hundreds of electric lights, and the balcony fronts are completed with decorated plaster. The capacity of the hall is 3,000 persons.
Last night the hall was specially decorated with many colored flags and long streamers of evergreens were swung along the side of the balcony form one box to another. The stage was banked with palms and immense ferns, while one of the prettiest drop curtains, showing an exterior view, was used to make the scene a literal palm garden. In the center of these decorations a well known orchestra played excellent dance music for Mr. Kolle?s guests. The first number on the dance order was, as usual, a grand march, which was led by Mr. and Mrs. John Kolle, followed by Mr. and Mrs. William Kolle. A German singing society rendered selections during the evening and an excellent vaudeville performance was also arranged. Dancing was continued until a late hour and then supper was served in the banquet hall. There were a great many friends and patrons of Mr. Kolle present.
The Brooklyn Daily Eagle - February 1906
A panic was nearly averted last night at Prospect Hall, owing to the timely arrival of patrolman Chris Donnelly and special officer Dan O?Connor. The occasion was the semi-annual masquerade ball of the Bay Ridge Athletic Club. The costume of one of the merrymakers became ignited. In the excitement following several women fainted, many gowns were badly torn and several persons were trampled upon in the mad rush to leave the room.
George Stimson, 19 years old, of 99 Bay 34th Street, was one of those who attended the ball. He came in the costume of a snowman, draped from head to foot in rolls of loose cotton. Prizes were awarded to those wearing unique, fancy and comic costumes. Stimson was awarded the prize for the unique costume. Just as he was about to receive the prize, a shaving set, from the president, someone in the gallery struck a match. A spark from the match ignited Stimson?s costume and he was quickly a mass of flames.
Officers Donnelly and O?Connor at once rushed to the man?s assistance and with the help of several members of the club succeeded in extinguishing the flames. Stimson was badly burned about the face and hands and had to be treated by an ambulance surgeon from the Seney Hospital. John Corbett, 17 years old, of 229 Forty-fifth St. was also badly burned about both hands. The two men were removed to their homes in an ambulance.
When the blaze started there were cries of fire and women and girls from all parts of the hall rushed for the main exit from the hall. Many were knocked down and trampled upon. Others lost their headgear and portions of their costumes. For a time, it looked as though a panic was imminent. There were fully 400 persons on the floor at the time.
Officers from the Forty-fourth precinct were called and quieted the people. They also prevented a man from turning in an alarm of fire. When it was discovered that Stimson had not been seriously burned the dancers returned to the hall and continued their dance with their enthusiasm only slightly diminished as a result.
Prospect Hall is the largest hall in the city. Some of the dancers and spectators were great alarmed lest the hall itself should catch fire. The hall is said to be fireproof.
A short time ago a similar accident took place in Manhattan during a ball. It occurred in much the same way.
The Brooklyn Citizen - January 1914
"A Popular Hall: Proprietor Kolle Looks out for Patrons Comfort"
That Prospect Hall is the mecca of all up-to-date society folks of South Brooklyn goes without saying, but a word as to the cause of its popularity may not be amiss in the height of this busiest social season in its history.
Although the hall with its spaciousness and excellent appointments is sufficient for those desiring to add lavishness and finish to their entertainments, these attractions would be perceptibly diminished were it not for the genial, solicitous and helpful personality of the proprietor, D. Kolle, who may always be found in close proximity to various committees in charge of the affairs, anxious and eager to add whatever may be needed for the completeness and enjoyment of the occasions.
During the entire length of the busy social season, Mr. Kolle and his corps of able assistants by whom every courtesy is extended to the visitors, may be found night after night, busying themselves about the various details incumbent upon the management of so large and popular an establishment.
Democrats, Republicans, Progressives, church, fraternal, and social organizations receive alike the same kindly attention and deferential consideration from the genial proprietor, which has gained for him a universal popularity equaled by few men in the district.
This hall itself, with its magnificent appointments, up-to-date equipment, inviting grillroom, finished in quaint Dutch style, and its central location makes it by far the most prominent public hall in the entire borough.
Everything conducive to pleasure is encompassed within its walls: escellent dancing floors, the best music obtainable, its Sunday night receptions and strict adherence to its rule of high-class attendance only. It is within easy access of trolley and elevated lines and operates a system of taxicabs and coach calls.
A casual observation of its many attractions provides the reason for its unceasing and constantly increasing popularity.
The Brooklyn Eagle - May 1915
Last evening was 'Twelth Assembly District Night" at the celebration in Prospect Hall for the benefit of The Prospect Park Zoo. Headed by Executive Member Timothy E. Griffin, of the Twelfth Assembly District Club and Alois Keogh, president of the club, the members turned out in great numbers to attend the affair. The Republicans of the district under the command of John T. Rafferty and former Congressman William M. Calder also turned out in force with the result that the second night's performance of the entertainment so far was the best attended. The members of the party were met at the hall by County Clerk Charles S. Devoy and Senator William J. Heffernan.
So many persons wanted to get into the hall last night that the doors were thrown wide open by the committee to the public. No tickets were required. The fine minstrel show by the Devoy Minstrels was repeated.
This afternoon there will be an entertainment for the benefit of the children. In the yard of the hall there will be an exhibition of a large number of the Zoo animals. According to the plans of the committee the exhibition will consist of elephants, bears, trained dogs and lions.
In the evening the minstrel show will be given again. The committee has big hopes of securing more than enough money for the big Zoo.
The Brooklyn Eagle - August 1938
"Old Prospect Hall, Scene of Many A Historic Event"
Prospect Hall, known to practically every South Brooklyn and Bay Ridge resident through the balls, dances and rallies staged there by most of the local social and political organizations, is host to many memories of stirring political events and dazzling social affairs.
Echoes of the brave outbursts of applause that greeted the oratory of men like William Jennings Bryan, Charles E. Hughes and Roald Amundsen in bygone days must still ring through the great ballroom occasionally after the dancers of some local club or organization have deserted the hall which rears its proud four-story front on Prospect Avenue near Fifth Avenue.
Rousing political rallies have been held here. A great throng jammed the hall when Charles E. Hughes, then Governor of this State, made an address here. It was more than 25 years ago that William Jennings Bryan, "the Great Commoner," crowded Prospect Hall to hear the silver-voiced orator make a political speech.
Patrick J. McCarren,, old warhorse of the turbulent politics of three decades ago, held a great rally here in the heyday of his leadership of Kings County Democracy. Many others, long since dead heard the applause of the crowd from the platform of Prospect Hall.
Henry Stimson, later Governor General Stimson of the Philippines Islands, headed the speakers at a great rally held here in behalf of his candidacy for the Governorship of the New York more than 20 years ago.
Prominent men who have since appeared at Prospect Hall included former governor Alfred E. Smith, Mayor Gaynor and Mayor John Purroy Mitchel, who spoke at a political rally here not many months before his death at a Texas flying field.
One of the greatest gatherings of Scandinavians ever held in Greater New York took place when Raoul Amundsen just returned from his expedition to the Northwest Passage, told of his exploration. That was more than 30 years ago, before the explorer, who lost his life in the Arctic, has made his famous discovery of the South Pole.
The present hall is not the first Prospect Hall built on that site. The original Prospect Hall, built in 1892, was burned in 1900 and the present structure was put up in 1902.
Early in 1880, a group of political and social leaders foremost in activities of a public nature felt the need of some large hall in South Brooklyn to accommodate their growing needs. They went to John A. Kolle, father of the present owner of Prospect Hall, and interested him in a project to build a large hall where social gatherings could be held with all the facilities then on hand. In 1890, Mr. Kolle bought the property on Prospect Avenue, then one of the most frequented streets in that section.
In 1891 ground was broken and on Thanksgiving Day 1892, the hall opened to the public with a reception and play. The building was then hardly complete but the Edison Electric Company succeeded in installing the first electric light system to be had in a Brooklyn hall.
The event of switching on the lights was witnessed by a very large crowd of people. The affairs held in that hall included banquets, weddings and theatrical performances.
But the life of the building was a short one. For on the night of Dec. 11, 1900, bristling with cold and snow, it was destroyed by a fire a few hours after an affair was held. So John Kolle?s dream, as he called it, was wiped out in one night.
Again the same group of societies and leaders called upon Kolle and asked him to rebuild his hall. Courage and forethought prompted him to accede to popular demand and he set out to build a new structure, the present one, now in the hands of his son, William Kolle
The Brooklyn Eagle - August 1940
"Spellbinders, Large & Small, Once held sway in Historic Hall"
With the presidential campaign just around the corner, attention of old-timers turns to Prospect Hall, a South Brooklyn landmark for nearly 40 years in which many a Presidential candidate and candidates for lesser office have held their audiences spellbound.
Many persons who recall the night in an early part of the century when William Jennings Bryan addressed an enthusiastic crowd there—a crowd so large that the policemen were stationed a close intervals throughout the aisles. Governor Hughes, now Chief Justice Hughes of the Supreme Court also has spoken in the hall and long before the South Pole was discovered the famous explorer Roald Amundsen lectured there. Senator Patrick McCarren, a power in Brooklyn politics in the early 1900s has held his audiences in his grasp in that hall and there have been numerous other spellbinders who have held forth from the rostrum in that historic place.
It was way back in 1880 that a group of political and social leaders foremost in activities of a public nature felt the need of some large hall in South Brooklyn to accommodate their growing needs. They went to John A. Kolle, father of the present owner of Prospect Hall and interested him in a project to build a large hall where social gatherings could be held with all the facilities then on hand. In 1890 Mr. Kolle bought the property on Prospect Avenue, then one of the most frequented streets in that section.
In 1891 ground was broken and on Thanksgiving Day 1892, the hall opened to the public with a reception and play. The building was then hardly completed, but the Edison Electric Company succeeded in installing the first electric light system to be had in a Brooklyn hall.
The event of switching on the lights was witnessed by a very large crowd of people. The affairs held in that hall included banquets, weddings and theatrical performances.
But the life of the building was a short one, for on the night of Dec. 11, 1900, bristling with cold and snow, it was destroyed by a fire a few hours after an affair was held. So John Kolle's dream, as he called it, was wiped out in one night.
Again the same group of societies and leaders called upon Kolle and asked him to rebuild his hall. Courage and forethought prompted him to accede to popular demand and he set out to build a new structure, the present one now in the hands of his son, William Kolle.
The present building is a fireproof structure. It was completed in 1902.
The Home Reporter & Sunset News - January 1983
"Prospect Hall is Back"
By, Dan Richards
Michael Halkias talks about the comeback of Prospect Hall as “the turn-around point of Brooklyn.”
Somehow, when he says that, it doesn’t ring false. Maybe the setting has something to do with it. He is looking up at the 45-foot high ceiling of a French Renaissance ballroom with a seating capacity near 2,500. Overhead is the freshly refinished brass support frame of a 15-foot diameter crystal chandelier; nearby two “smaller” 12-foot companion chandeliers will soon be installed.
The two levels of horseshoe balconies have been fully refinished with gold leaf paint costing $70 a gallon. The elaborate decorative plaster on the ceiling has been restored and repainted. Adjoining the ballroom is a catering kitchen which could, Halkias says, “comfortably wine and dine” some 1,500 people on the ballroom floor, its adjoining dining room, and first balcony, which can be outfitted with tables. And that’s only the ballroom…
The word “breathtaking” is often misused; in this case it’s not. The scale of the place is what is so striking – now that the restoration is nearly complete, it’s hard to believe the place was, well, here since 1902. But not to Halkias.
“Let’s not forget that Prospect Hall was built to be the convention center of Brooklyn,” says Halkias, the sort of Brooklyn chauvinist who will only say “city of Brooklyn” and never “borough of Brooklyn.” “Over the years, changes in economic and social conditions brought about – what shall we call it? – a forgetfulness. This place was just forgotten.”
So far, Halkias says, the response of business, government, and institutions such as hospitals has been highly enthusiastic to the idea of a “new” convention center. In fact, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce is planning to hold a trade show in the hall on Jan. 18 expected to draw some 350 people.
However the hall got an earlier “tryout” when the New Year was ushered in with two bands and 20! – Count ‘em! – 20! Brazilian Mardi Gras dancing girls
One of those bands was the Prospect Hall Big Band Sound, the “in-house” orchestra which Halkias says will be performing at regular Friday evening ballroom dances.
On a somewhat less vast-although no less ambitious-scale, is Prospect Hall’s regular restaurant, the Oak Room. The bar-lounge area is immediately adjacent to the front lobby, and will lure the visitor with comfortable armchairs and sofas. Halkias says that he got the idea from the Algonquin Hotel, whose “club room” lounge impressed him with its easy ambiance.
The Oak Room’s medieval style has been carefully restored. Original brass chandeliers, found caked and blackened with eight decades worth of grime in one of the hall’s many crannies, were painstakingly polished to their original luster. Reproductions were fashioned to replace missing elements such as stained glass, bevel glass, etched glass, woodwork, and stone balustrades. It takes careful scrutiny-and some good guesswork-to tell the original elements from the reproductions.
Because man does not live by oak paneling alone, Halkias hired Eric Bunch, a graduate of the Culinary Arts Institute who has been a chef at the Waldorf-Astoria and several top restaurants, to create the Oak Room’s continental cuisine. Bunch, very serious about his work, insists on personally going to market to select produce, meats and seafood for his dishes. “Without top quality ingredients, you cannot produce a top quality dish,” he says. “I don’t believe in taking any shortcuts whatsoever.” Bunch does not consider his style “nouvelle cuisine,” although he believes in such elements as new combinations of flavors in spicing, sauces and garnishes.
“Everyone will come to Prospect Hall because it’s a beautiful place – but how will I get them to come back?” Halkias says. “We’ll do that with service, and good food.”
In addition to the ballroom and restaurant, Prospect Hall includes private rooms small enough for parties of about 50, up to the Chopin Room, which can handle about 400. There is an on-site parking lot for 300 cars.
For the future, Halkias is looking forward to employing the ballroom-the last remaining vaudeville-type hall in New York City-for performing arts such as ballet, opera, and symphonic and choral music.
Bay News - April 1983
"Prospect Hall restored back to opulent & elegant palace"
By, Kennith Brown
In the days when millionaires and billionaires built palaces along Fifth Avenue and the rich vied with each other to see who could build the most splendid buildings in New York, Prospect Hall in Brooklyn was a role model for all to follow.
For nearly half a century after it was completed in 1892, Prospect Hall was the epitome of elegance and beauty. Built as a convention center, the place had a capacity for nearly 6000 people and an equally large capacity for causing gasps and ahhs from its visitors.
In 1940, when money no longer flowed like water, the fabulous Prospect Hall began a steady decline into oblivion, used first as a meeting hall for local community groups then for an array of events that ranged from boxing matching to flea markets.
The building was now only as good as the amount of people it could hold. No one cared about the magnificent wood carvings, the marble detailing, the ornate craftsmanship so evident in every nook and cranny of the premises. No one, that is, except Bay Ridge real estate developer Michael Halkias. “I love art and here was a prime example of the beauty of another age, a landmark that was not being given its due. I wanted to bring Prospect Hall back into the limelight that it shared with no other establishment a few decades ago,” Halkias explains.
Restoring Prospect Hall was no easy task, but $2 million worth of renovations made all the difference and today a visitor to the place feels as if time has once again been turned back to the turn of the century and the graciousness and poshness of another age restored once more.
On March 10, 1983 Prospect Hall celebrated its 20-th century grand opening, with more than 1500 prominent New Yorkers sharing the honors at a huge banquet and party.
The historical significance, architectural beauty and uniqueness of the establishment surrounds the visitor. There is a 12-lane bowling alley tucked away on one floor. The Hall was the first theatrical space in the city to be built under city building codes, and the first public building in the city ever, to be wired for electricity. There is a tremendous outdoor café area with its own forest of maple trees and the only remaining vaudeville stage in existence.
The Grand Ballroom, with its 45-foot high ceiling and capacity for 3,000 people, is the only surviving Victorian ballroom in the city.
There are eleven other totally refurbished party rooms that seat between 25 and 450 people. In all, the premises can accommodate over 6000 people.
Detail is everywhere -the four mahogany bars, oak walls and furniture, stained glass, museum quality murals, gas light era brass fixtures, original frescoes.
And it all is available for you for turning that special day into an unforgettable event.
Totally new, too, is one of the borough’s newest and what might be most sophisticated dining spot – The Oak Room – open for lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper and Sunday brunch. Dine in a palace as chamber music fills the air.
For more information on planning a catered affair at Prospect Hall, or for information on the restaurant, please call Prospect Hall, located at 263 Prospect Avenue, at 788-0777.
Home Reporter & Sunset News - October 1983
By Sara Otey
PROSPECT HALL will be the scene of a number of Brooklyn happenings, the first being a fund-raiser for Sen. JOE MONTALTO, coming up Friday, October 14. A little later, the Lambda Independent Democrats will honor several people, including STEVE DI BRIENCZA, at an affair held at the Victorian “palace.”
Prospect Hall’s Oak Room restaurant was the setting Friday night wehn BISHOP FRANCIS MUGAVERO celebrated his 15th year s a head of the Brooklyn Diocese, and his 43rd years as a priest.
Joining the festivities where Diocesan officials JAMES KING, CELSUS COLLINI, GERALD LANGALIER, WILLIAM FLOOD, JOSEHPH MARTUSCIELLO, DOUBLAS BROWN, and JOHN WALKER.
Home Reporter & Sunset News - August 1983
By Sara Otey
SEEING STARS: Proud owner of Prospect Hall MIKE HALKIAS tells us that movie heartthrob RICHARD GERE will be shooting a film at the palatial hall on Prospect Avenue this month. The movie, The Cotton Club, is directed by FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA. The wedding scene and other scenes will be filmed in the hall’s Grand Ballroom, Speakeasy Room, and restaurant, The Oak Room, where singer ALAN DALE dined just recently.
Home Reporter & Sunset News - March 1984
By Sara Otey
A VERY SPECIAL INTERNATIONAL NIGHT AT PROSPECT HALL: would be an understatement when you consider that 13 members of the Russian Summer Olympic team were present Saturday night during a dinner sponsored by the Metropolitan Athletic Congress.
And upstairs, in another of the Hall’s splendid rooms, a gathering for a Lebanese association was holding forth , according to Sunset Park civic activist SELMA COYNE, who saw all.
She says there were plenty of New York’s Finest nearby, but not for the Russians!
Selma, who makes travel arrangements for U.S. Olympic track and field team members, said the dinner at Prospect Hall was an awards night for athletes, and the Russians were guests of the MAC.
Prospect Hall owner Michael Halkias is Greek, the hall has Polish roots, and so…..
The Prospect Press - March 1983
"Gov Carey Brings his Anti-IRA Crusade to Prospect Hall
By Alan Breznick
Former Governor Hugh Carey came home to the South Slope in mid March, asking Brooklynites to join him in his new crusade for peace between the warring Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. In a rambling, wide-ranging speech at Prospect Hall, Carey said others should pick up the cause because “it will bring peace” and help “stop the carnage” in that troubled country.
Looking relaxed and well-rested in a dark, conservative jacket, with his hair a jet black, Carey defended his decision not to march in the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade three days earlier. Without mentioning him by name, he criticized Mayor Koch for letting the parade get “hijacked by the wrong people” and argued that “in history, the politics of death have never beaten the politics of life.”
The former Park Slope and Windsor Terrace congressman also blasted the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its numerous American supporters, including, he said, many Brooklynites. He said he wants to “rip off the shroud of respectability” that the IRA and its support group enjoy and show how they are “tied into other terrorist groups.”
Carey noted that about the same number of people have been killed in recent years in Northern Ireland as are currently sitting on death row in American jails. “I don’t want a death row in my home country,” he said. That’s what Northern Ireland is now.”
Carey made his remarks while accepting a humanitarian award from the Brooklyn chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union, mostly for his strong stands in favor of abortion and against capital punishment during his eight years as governor. He said he intends to spend much of the next year speaking to similar groups about peace in Northern Ireland so that the 1984 St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be “a peace parade.”
During his speech, Carey also touched on some of the major issues of his years in the governor’s mansion, including abortion, the death penalty, the de-institutionalization of mental hospital patients, overcrowded prisons and health care. He said he feels “so freed and completely liberated by not being governor” and will devote his remaining years to “gaining a livelihood and going after peace.”
“I couldn’t feel better about coming home, “ Carey concluded. “If this is retirement, well, it’s a hell of a lot better than being in Albany.” He received a polite standing ovation from the 60 to 70 people in the room.
The Brooklyn Graphic - June 1983
"Prospect Hall offers Free Tours"
Prospect Hall, the elegant Victorian edifice at 263 Prospect Avenue, is pleased to announce a daily series of tours through its splendid, historic and architecturally unique interior.
Five tours, free-of-charge, every hour on the hour from 2 P.M. to 6 P.M. each day, will offer visitors an exceptional perspective of a byproduct of the era that created the Brooklyn Bridge, with the same attention to architectural detail and beauty of form and function.
Once one of the major cultural attractions of the city of Brooklyn, Prospect Hall is once again in the forefront of national attention as the Convention Center of Brooklyn. Initially opened in 1982 as a convention center, Prospect Hall has served a variety of functions throughout its colorful history. The Victorian Grand Ballroom, once a German Opera House can accommodate 1,000 to 2,500 people. The facility also served as a place of entertainment for the beautiful, powerful and elite of several generations of Brooklynites.
Today, 90 year old Prospect Hall whose 12 ballrooms can hold more than 5,000 guests, has resumed its original capacity as Brooklyn’s Convention Center. Recently, renovated and restored by owner Michael Halkias, it boasts of magnificent wood carvings, marble detailing and ornate craftsmanship. The four mahogany bars, oak walls, and carved furniture, as well as the original stained glass, murals, frescoes and gaslight era brass fixtures lend a distinctive atmosphere of grace and charm.
The daily tours can be complemented with lunch, served from 11:30 A.M. to 3 P.M. or dinner from 5 P.M. to 10 P.M., or afternoon tea from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. at Prospect Hall’s restaurant, The Oak Room. A two-story high dining room done in Bavarian motif, the restaurant features French Continental/Provencial cuisine with French tableside service. The Afternoon Tea menu provides a leisurely respite from the tension of the day. A variety of teas, toasts, pastries, cakes, and finger sandwiches are available. Diners at every meal will feel like a welcome guest and will be fortified by food prepared from the freshest ingredients and transported into an era of grandeur.
Prospect Hall, Brooklyn’s Victorian Palace, brings Manhattan’s sophistication to Brooklyn without the exorbitant prices. Valet parking is available, free-of-charge.
Prospect Hall, at 263 Prospect Avenue, between 5th and 6th Avenues, just off the Prospect expressway in Brooklyn, is easily accessible by car or public transportation.
For additional information, call 788-0777.
The Daily News - October 1984
"Prospect Halls Big Break in the Movies"
By Robert Fleming
Brooklyn became Tinseltown yesterday when veteran director John Huston and Oscar winning actor Jack Nicholson filmed a scene for a new movie called “Prizzi’s Honor.”
The setting was Prospect Hall’s Victorian Grand Ballroom in Park Slope, where a wedding reception scene was being shot for the movie. The film, a comedy about a New York mobster, is based on the novel by Richard Condon.
The 78-year-old Huston – clad in a brown leisure suit, a paperback copy of a Jean Rhys novel resting on his lap – relaxed in his director’s chair in a corner of the ballroom during a break.
“I wanted to do this film because it was completely different from my last film ‘Under the Volcano,’” Huston said. “I admire Condon very much and have read him faithfully for years. There is an outlandish quality about his work that I love.”
The movie also stars Kathleen Turner and Angelica Huston, daughter of the director. The film is Nicholson’s first major feature filmed in New York and his first outing since his Academy Award-winning performance in “Terms of Endearment.”
In the deep, rich voice that is his trademark, Huston commented on his choice of Nicholson for the lead role: “Jack seemed ideal for the part because he is such a wonderful character. He was the first person we thought of, no one else. The role required someone who could be sympathetic, but that the same time, a real torpedo.”
Nicholson – wearing a white shirt with tissue tucked around the collar and suspenders holding up his dress trousers – talked and joked with the other actors and the crew. “Nicholson is very much the same on camera and off,” said actor John Romano. “He’s very relaxed, always in control. He cracks jokes to relieve the tension when things get uptight.”
The shooting at 91-year-old Prospect Hall has its management quite pleased. “Huston fell in love with the hall when he saw it, “ said hall official Rosemarie Barbato. The room’s top-hat décor also set the tone for another movie, Francis Ford Coppola’s “Cotton Club,” which will be released this winter.
Ten other Brooklyn locations will be used in the making of “Prizzi’s Honor” according to Stewart Fink, the film’s publicist. He said their addresses are being withheld for purposes of “crowd control.” Last week, the crew shot interior scenes at St. Ann’s Church in Downtown Brooklyn.
The Daily News
"City Beat: Russian Kids Revitalizing Dance"
By Bill Bell
Victoria Kutikova was looking down on the ballroom floor from her place in the balcony of the Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope, Brooklyn, marveling at the scene.
Six couples were dancing the cha-cha. They were competing for ribbons at the eight annual Manhattan Amateur Classic dance championships.
And the oldest dancer on the floor was 8.
“See?” said Kutikova. “They are all Russian.”
And so they were – and so were all but exactly four of the 252 contestants in the age 6-to-18 category.
Virtually unnoticed, Russian kids are taking over the New York ballroom dance scene.
“It’s more than that,” says Clive Phillips, a dance instructor and judge. “They are going to save ballroom dancing in New York.”
The championships, organized by the Greater New York chapter of the U.S. Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association, lasted all day Saturday and yesterday and drew hundreds of competitive amateur adult dancers from as far as Vermont and Virginia.
But it was the youngsters who sent out the clearest signal of a change in the old dance guard.
One by one, their names were called to accept first-place prizes - Ilya Naoumov and Liza Satarov, Maxim Tkachenko and Zhanna Kogan, Vladimir Mazin and Karina Sodolersksaya, Artur Dudin and Jarlin Dikunsky, and Mark Dyu, a winner in seven categories with two partners, Karina Gorodkin and Daniella Schchigol.
“Ballroom dancing is their Little League,” says Steve Malanga, secretary of the Greater New York chapter, “and when they’re older, it’s their Babe Ruth League.”
Apparently so, because Russian youngsters swept all the prizes in the 9-to-12, 12-to-15 and 16-to-18 categories.
Kutikova wasn’t surprised. “In Russia,” she said, “the children start at age 7, learning the cha-cha, the rhumba, the slow waltz and the fox trot. By 10, they know 10 dances.”
This is because Moscow, and most other East European governments, promote and finance ballroom dancing, which is regarded as a highly competitive sport.
But the Russian connection in New York wasn’t established until about six years ago with the arrival of Victor Kanevsky, a celebrated Russian ballroom teacher. When he saw how many Russian families lived in Brooklyn, he opened a studio there. He now owns three.
Kutikova, a one-time choreographer in Russia and a New Yorker for about 16 months, teaches in one of them. “There are students of other nationalities,” she says, “but mostly they are Russian.”
Janine D’Andrea, the president of the Greater New York chapter, puts its membership at 300, but says a large majority is non-Russian. That, she expects, will change as the Russian kids grow up.
Adding to continuted interest is a decision by the International Olympic Committee to recognize ballroom dancing as a sport – and it is, as much as synchronized swimming and ice dancing. It is likely to become a full-fledged medal sport within a decade.
Proud parents shouted encouragement - in Russian - and taped performers. Youngsters practiced in corners and hallways until their numbers were called. Teachers gave students last-minute tips and inspections.
Among the competitors was Kutikova’s son Yuriy, 15. “I worry about all the students except him,” she said. “He always does his best.”
Yuriy’s twin sister, Yulia, danced until about three months ago, when she suddenly lost interest. “I was so upset,” Kutikova said, “but at least she came to see Yuriy.”
And, sure enough, as he swept onto the floor, Yulia pushed to the front of the crowd, shouted a greeting and aimed her video camera.
The Daily News
"A Hitch in Their Wedding Plans"
When Yankee fans Jennifer Aguirre and Harry Genzale chose their wedding date, they had no idea their beloved Bronx Bombers would be hosting the first game of the Subway Series the same night.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Genzale, 28, said yesterday speaking by cell phone en route to the couple’s reception after exchanging vows at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church on Staten Island.
“What luck!” he moaned. “But the wedding was already planned, so what are you going to do?”
Their postnuptial celebration at Grand Prospect Hall in Brooklyn’s Park Slope ran inning for inning with last night’s contest.
So wedding guests, 160 in all, took turns checking up on their favorite team, leaving the dance floor in the Chopin Room to peek at the big-screen TV in the manager’s office.
The TV was set up to accommodate an important guest; the bridegroom’s father, also named Harry Genzale.
“He has to know the score every five minutes,” said his new daughter-in-law. “We did it just for him.”
Jane Genzale, the bridegroom’s mother, said her husband and three children are all avid Yankee fans.
“We are happy it’s game one…and not the last game,” she said.
Aguirre had little use for baseball until she started dating Genzale eight years ago, after they were introduced by a mutual friend.
“I started getting into baseball when he took me to the games,” she said.
“Now I like Tino Martinez, because he’s very good looking and a great player, too.”
The 27-year-old physical therapist and her stockbroker husband are leaving tomorrow to honeymoon in the south of Spain.
They seem resigned to the fact that the World Series may not be available on the TV at their beach resort hotel.
“Maybe I’ll read it in the paper the next day,” the bridegroom said, laughing. “In Spanish.”
The Daily News
"Caribbeat: Benefit Dance Set by Belize Society
By Jared McCallister
The Citizens of Belize Society will host a fund-raising dance Saturday evening at Brooklyn’s Prospect Hall convention center.
Dance organizer Dennis Flowers said that he expects more than 1,000 to attend the affair. AN 11-member band, coming up from Belize for the occasion, will play Caribbean and Latin music. Belize’s ambassador to the United States, Robert Leslie, is expected to attend.
Money raised from the event will go to help victims of a recent major fire in the Central American country’s capital city, Belize City. Admission for the affair is $15.
The dance will be held at Prospect Hall, 263 Prospect Ave., between Fifth and Sixth Aves., beginning at 11 p.m. For information, call 788-0777.
The Daily News
"Dining Spots Love Mothers Day Best of All"
By Walter Kaner
RECOMMENDED: Prospect Hall in Brooklyn is more than a restaurant-catering facility – it’s an experience. Enterint this 90-year-old facility is like turning back time to yesteryear elegance and grandeur. Originally launched as Brooklyn’s convential hall, it later became Polish Hall, then German Hall, and, after a $2 million refurbishing reopened in mid-March.
In addition to its ground floor Oak Room Restaurant and cocktail lounge, it offers 11 upstairs catering rooms including a huge, spectacular, 3,000 capacity Victorian-styled ballroom with 45-foot high, gilded and crved plaster ceiling, double-tiered horseshoe balconies and a large stage for shows. In all, the sprawling facility seats some 6,000 persons. For diners, its chief attraction is the Oak Room, a European-styled, twostory high dining room with original oak-paneled walls topped with murals, along with stained glass windows and gaslight-era brass chandeliers. The room is spacious, elegant, with a regal like setting. Because of its size, high ceiling and tile floors the room lacks intimacy, minor points in view of its other qualities.
The menu is chiefly French, but also offers Italian and American dishes. Items are a la carte and a complete dinner should run aout $20 to $25. Prices are in the moderate range considering the food quality, elegant setting and the French-styled, table-side preparation of some dishes.
The food is very good, attractively presented, and the young waiters are pleasant, courteous and attentive.
Prospect Hall is located at 263 Prospect Ave. in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn. Declidedly different in setting, and well worth a visit.
The Carroll Gardens / Cobble Hill Newspaper - April 1984
"Notes from Nino"
By Nino Pantano
Prospect Hall was host to "The Best of BACA", a traditional gathering of the Brooklyn Arts and Cultural Association on Friday, April 13. It was also a special evening honoring Charlene Victor, BACA's founder. Hundreds of letters of admiration were compiled by her friends and supporters according to Chuck Richenthal, who coordinated the event.
The evening began with a dinner in the elegant Oak Room, and then moved into the spacious downstairs ballroom where the guests were treated to the music of the dynamic "Realism Streetdancers," whose style, dress and dancing are a combination of Michael Jackson and breakdancing. Afterwards, Charles Laemmle of Abraham and Straus, presided over an auction of everything from fans to sculpture. Artwork auctioned included works by Richard Waller, Sara Fox, Charles Viera, Lou Storey, Russel Drish, Great Fundersen, Doris Lanier, Barry Cohen and Dina Helal. Next came dancing to the "ESP Band" with Rick Mascarinas while exotic fashions by Orneyce Prince were shown by models who posed as living statues. Horse racing films were also a popular attraction of the evening. Actor Vincent Gardenia toasted the resplendent Charlene as did many of her friends including our Borough's first lady and champion of the arts, Aileen Golden, Marion Scotto (Special Events-Boro Hall), Con Ed's Ben Glascoe and wife Gloria, BUG's Alan Smith, A&S Francesco Cantarella, Board Chairman of BACA (and owner of Le Parc Gormer), Jack Koven, parade organizer dashing Al Calabro, LIU's Dr. Gary Marotta and wife Joan, artist Fernand Barbor and wife Claudine, plus State Senator Montalto, Congressman Schumer, Councilman Sam Hurwitz, and our own Ellen and Lenny Manusco. Scores of others wished Charlene, Chuck and BACA continued success at Michael and Alice Halkias' Victorian Prospect Hall - a hall once again at the fore of our boro's gala happenings!