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Stanley Kubrick and the Mystery of Majestic Court

OK, we'll get to the whole Stanley Kubrick thing in a minute, but first a little history lesson (trust me, it's important).

For those of you not familiar with the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, it was designed by engineer Louis Aloys Risse, an Alsatian immigrant, and built back in 1909 to provide access from Manhattan to the large parks in the Bronx. Modeled on Paris’ Champs-Élysées, the original design had separate paths for horses, cyclists, and pedestrians. The $14 million cost of the project would compare to almost $400 million today.

The IRT Jerome Avenue Line of the New York City Subway opened a few blocks west of the Grand Concourse in 1917, initiating a housing boom amongst upwardly mobile, predominantly Jewish and Italian, families who were fleeing the crowded tenements of Manhattan. Development of the Concourse was further encouraged by the opening of the IND Concourse Line in 1933. In between those times, Yankee Stadium opened near the Grand Concourse and 161st Street in 1923.

Most buildings lining the Grand Concourse were built in the 1920s and 30s during the height of the City Beautiful movement, which was premised on the idea that a neighborhood’s architecture influences the community’s functionality and humanity. Today, the Grand Concourse hosts the largest collection of Art Deco and Art Moderne style buildings in America.

Alas, city housing projects, diminished city services and New York's fiscal crisis of the 60's and 70's brought on the decline of the Bronx as well as the Grand Concourse. The Bronx, which at one time had more amenities than other boroughs (private bathrooms, central heating, etc), was overrun by arson, crime, and vandalism. It was the end of an era.

Stanley Kubrick

My family moved to the Grand Concourse (from University Avenue also in the Bronx) when I was in 3rd grade. I went to P.S. 46 just a short walk down 196th Street and I lived there for almost 20 years. It's there where I grew up and misspent a rather enjoyable youth.

Our 6th floor (penthouse) apartment looked out upon the very front (and back) of the building with the living room window giving you a direct view of the building's courtyard entryway as well as a view of the other side of the Grand Concourse. In the 20+ years I lived there, I looked out that window several thousand (hundred thousand?) times for myriad reasons (mainly to see if any of my friends were hanging out outside).

And there was this building across the street.

You couldn't look out that window and miss the building across the street. Moreover, you couldn't walk out of my building (which I did several thousand times) without seeing the building across the street right in front of you. It was such a common sight that I somehow failed to appreciate how lovely the design of the building was.

Having since moved out of that building and relocated my family to Florida over 11 years ago, when I return to the Bronx to visit my family (my mom still lives in that building), the first thing I do when I get to the living room is look out that window. The familiar view makes me wax nostalgic for the days of my youth; lots of good times were had right in front of that building.

But now, when I look out that window, I notice that building across the street. The beautiful molding, the classic Art Deco design. It's clearly the most attractive building on the block. So after taking a few pics of the building during my stay in the Bronx this past summer, I began to research who the architect might be that designed that particular building; the one that stands out among all the buildings on that block.

What I ended up finding out made my jaw drop.

First of all, the building was named Majestic Court and was built in 1924 by H. I. Feldman, an architect who designed 2,500 apartment houses in the New York metropolitan area. He also built another very similar building at the end of the same block, right before Kingsbridge Road. Feldman, who started his practice and became particularly active on the Grand Concourse, died in 1981.

Then I found out who had lived right in that building as a teenager – a fellow named Stanley Kubrick.

Stanley Kubrick

Oh, and guess what, he lived on the 6th floor of the building. I did mention that I also lived on the 6th floor of the building right across where Stanley Kubrick lived, right? And that I also lived there as a teenager? OK, cool.

Yeah, arguably the greatest filmmaker of his time lived right across the street from me.

Kubrick and his family (his father Jacob "Jack" Leonard Kubrick, who was a prominent doctor, his mother Sadie and his younger sister Barbara Mary) lived there from 1942-1944 and it was in that very building across the street that Kubrick met a teenager named Marvin Traub who lived directly below him. Traub had his own darkroom and showed young Stanley Kubrick (who owned a Graflex camera his father had bought him) how to develop pictures. The two boys would frequently roam the streets looking for interesting subjects to capture.

Kubrick would aften frequent the Loew's Paradise Theater right on the Grand Concourse, just past Fordham Road. The theater, which opened in 1929 and was designed by architect John Eberson, was one of the last theatres built in the Atmospheric style towards the end of the movie palace building boom. It was here where young Stanley Kubrick developed his love for films. I'd seen many films there as a teenager before it closed in 1994 and it was the loveliest theater you could go to in all the Bronx. I might even have sat in a seat Kubrick sat in. Perhaps.

That Kubrick lived in an apartment on the 6th floor of a building on the Grand Concourse and 196th Street (as I did), loved photography (as do I), developed his love for films as a teenager watching movies at the Loew’s Paradise Theater (as I did), and that Kubrick started out making short documentary films (as do I) can only mean one thing...

That I will eventually become the greatest filmmaker of my generation!!!

Or maybe just a pretty good one. I'll take that, too.

Anyway, after learning of my onetime neighbor, I returned to the Bronx last week and took a few pics of the building, lobby and even the 6th floor - here they are...

Stanley Kubrick

Here's a view of the building (highlighted by the red arrow) from my living room window. I shot this pic back in April of 2012, still oblivious of the fact that 70 years ago, I might have been looking right at Kubrick (and he at me!)

Stanley Kubrick

I pulled out my zoom lens to get a shot of some of the great design this building has...

Grand Concourse

Grand Concourse

Grand Concourse

Grand Concourse

Here's a shot of the building from street level...

Grand Concourse

Walking up to the building (I started to feel Kubrick's fiery eyes looking down upon me from above!)

Grand Concourse

Standing in the vestibule of the building, preparing to enter...

Grand Concourse

Upon entering the lobby, a pair of stairs and two apartments to my left (same to my right)

Stanley Kubrick

An old fashioned mail chute by the entrance to the lobby. Fancy stuff...

The main lobby (shot with a fisheye lens) looks like a scene out of a Kubrick film!

Stanley Kubrick

Faded and worn stained glass windows from the original construction adorn the main lobby...

Stanley Kubrick

His inspiration for Barry Lyndon? Hmmm...

Stanley Kubrick

An old wooden table in the main lobby (surely Kubrick sat here just as I'm doing after spending an afternoon shooting photographs in the street)

Stanley Kubrick

Here's what appears to be either a freight or private elevator. Didn't look that it was still in use but check out the fancy molding...

Stanley Kubrick

The main elevator was one of those where you had to pull open a door first. I entered...

STanley Kubrick

The elevator buttons looked like they were originals. Know what that means? My finger touched the same friggin' 6th floor elevator button that Stanley Kubrick touched!!!

Grand Concourse

I arrive on the 6th floor, Kubrick's floor...

Stanley Kubrick

Hallway to my left after exiting the elevator. Did Kubrick live there?

Grand Concourse

Maybe he lived here? Perhaps...

Grand Concourse

Maybe young Stanley Kubrick preferred taking the stairs? Somehow I don't think so...

Stanley Kubrick

Elevator ride back to the lobby...

Upon exiting the building, I was certain that Kubrick himself was looking down on me; but not from a 6th floor window but from much, much higher up. And he was smiling. I knew then that I was destined for greatness...

Majestic Court

Finally the mystery of Majestic Court had been solved. I'll never look at that building the same way again as it was once home to one of the greatest movie directors who ever lived. Oh, and across the street from where Kubrick once lived? There lived another young filmmaker who loved photography, movies, and also shoots short documentary films. But that filmmaker's story is still being written...

Grand Concourse

Special thanks to my mom, who accompanied me to that building across the street as my photography assistant. She even took a few photographs of me posted above. And her pants? Yeah, Kubrick would have dug those pants...

Grand Concourse

The Bronx

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