In the past eighty-six years, the Montauk Playhouse has lived many lives. As the Montauk community has grown and transformed, so too has the Playhouse.
1920s: Famed developer Carl Fisher arrives in the quiet town of Montauk, with plans to build a “Miami Beach of the North”. As a centerpiece of his plans, he constructs The Montauk Tennis Auditorium. The glass-roofed, Tudor style building is immense – it was built to accommodate 2 standard-size tennis courts with seating for over 6,000.
The building is located directly across from the Montauk train station. When visitors stepped off the train, their first vision of Montauk was – and still is – this striking structure.
The facility was designed to stage numerous activities, namely tennis, but also boxing matches and large-scale conferences. The Auditorium opened on August 30, 1929 with great fanfare and a boxing exhibition. At the time of its completion the building was said to be the largest of its kind in the world.
1930s: The stock market crash of 1929 took a toll on Carl Fisher’s holdings. His Miami-beach project was failing and the Montauk project suffered in turn. The Montauk Manor, Yacht Club, and Surf Club continued to serve guests through the 1930’s, and the Tennis Auditorium continued to operate, serving primarily as the indoor tennis courts for the Montauk Manor.
1940s: During World War II, the United States Navy took over most of Carl Fisher’s buildings in Montauk for operational and recreational purposes. The Tennis Auditorium was retrofitted with heat and one of the tennis courts was transformed into an assembly hall and theater for the troops. The second court was used primarily as storage for the Montauk Manor Hotel. At the end of the war, the troops left Montauk and the building sat idle for a number of years.
1959: The summer of 1959 saw the opening of a summer stock theater. Herb Sheldon, a TV personality, arrived in Montauk with a group of young actors. Audience members were treated to live theater performances 6 days a week. To reflect its new purpose, the name of the facility was changed from the Montauk Tennis Auditorium to the Montauk Manor Playhouse.
1960s: In 1960, Prudential Theaters opened the facility as a summer movie house. The movie continued to operate seasonally for over a decade. Many Montauk residents still have fond memories of going to movies at the Playhouse, sitting in beach chairs and watching for loose ceiling tiles.
1987: Despite years of neglect, the architectural importance of the Playhouse is recognized with a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
1999: The Playhouse and its surrounding acreage is donated to the Town of East Hampton. The Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation is established to save the structure and raise funds to rehabilitate is as a community center.
2006: The restored building opens to the public as the long-awaited Montauk Playhouse Community Center. See more – Current Facilities
Today: Now, exciting plans are underway for completing the unfinished half of the Playhouse with and Aquatic Center and multi-use Cultural Center. The Foundation is working tirelessly to raise the funds needed to complete the Playhouse. See more – Future Plans