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Before the Roller Disco

By Cecily Dyer

Posted on December 15, 2020

Ralph Irving Lloyd, Meserole House, 1000 Lorimer St., c. 1905, lantern slide, V1981.15.124; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History.

This week’s photograph of Adrian and Mary Meserole’s house on Lorimer Street takes us to the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Adrian Meserole’s family had once owned much of present-day Greenpoint. His ancestor Jean Meserole and his wife were Huguenots—Protestants in Catholic-controlled France—who fled with their young son first to Amsterdam and then to New Amsterdam, present-day New York City, in 1663, becoming one of the five founding families of the town of Bushwick on land that the West India Company had acquired from the Canarsee Indians. Jean’s farm on the East River was called Kijkuit, meaning “The Lookout” in Dutch (like the later Hudson Valley home of John D. Rockefeller).

The Meseroles gradually sold off their land after 1750. On part of what remained, Adrian likely built the pictured house in the latter 19th century, not long after 1st Street, being at one time the first street east of Bushwick Creek, became known as Lorimer Street. By the time Ralph Irving Lloyd, an amateur photographer whose subjects were primarily cats and old Brooklyn buildings, snapped this photograph in 1905, Greenpoint had become home to diverse industries and immigrant groups, and Adrian and Mary’s big old wood-frame home and spacious yard on Lorimer street were a relic of another time.

Mary died in 1907 and Adrian in 1913. The local Young Women’s Hebrew Association bought the home in 1917 to use as a clubhouse, but the large building was likely in poor repair. Two years later the YWHA found a new home at the southwest corner of Norman Avenue and Leonard Street, and the old Meserole house was razed. In its place, theatre operator Sol Brill built a 2,000-seat venue, called the Meserole Theatre, with an entrance and marquee on Manhattan Avenue. The movie theater operated for over fifty years before being altered in 1979 to became the Greenpoint Roller Palace, a short-lived roller disco with skating rinks on the first floor and mezzanine. Most recently various pharmacy chains have occupied the space, but both its Manhattan Avenue entrance and much of its interior—including original details from the theatre and an iconic disco ball hanging from the ceiling—have remained intact.

Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. We look forward inviting you back to BHS is the future to research in our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections. In the meantime, please visit our digital collections, available here. Our reference staff are still available to help with your research! You can reach us at [email protected]

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