Key Client—Jacob Fabian

Jacob Fabian became the most significant single client of Fred Wesley Wentworth. Together they would collaborate on several of the most significant buildings in Paterson and for that matter in New Jersey.

Fabian’s story is nothing short of remarkable. He was born in Austria in 1865 to a Jewish family. He was a year younger than Wentworth and couldn’t come from a more different background. He immigrated to America at age 17 by himself and immediately went to work. He settled in New York City and for fourteen years worked in the clothing manufacturing business.

He arrived in Paterson in 1896, sensing the retailing potential of the growing city and opened a clothing store. Apparently, his timing and business skills were excellent and before long he was one of the most successful retailers in the city.

Fabian’s retail business operated in Paterson for eighteen years on Main Street. When the fire of 1902 destroyed most of downtown, including his store, Fabian relocated and quickly rebuilt the business. Tired of retailing, Fabian ‘retired’ in 1914 and operated some real estate he owned.

However, he quickly became bored with retirement and sought out other ventures. Fabian swapped an apartment building for a vacant lot near the center of Paterson and built the Regent Theatre, the first dedicated movie theatre. Wentworth designed the building for Fabian and it was an immediate success. This was the first of many collaborative building projects that Wentworth and Fabian would design and build as a team.

Their first project was a new building type. In 1914, Fabian built the Regent Theatre with seating for 2,500 – first theatre designed for moving pictures as well as live shows. The Regent became a huge success and Fabian was determined to expand his role in the emerging entertainment business and over a period of the next fifteen years built a sizable entertainment empire.

Just consider Fabian’s accomplishments:

  • Between 1914 to 1929, Fabian built five grand movie palaces in major cities of New Jersey all of which were designed by Fred Wesley Wentworth.
  • Continued an aggressive expansion and construction program during labor and material shortages during World War I and subsequent years.
  • Fabian assembled a network of movie theatres in the New York metropolitan area. This was done in combination with live theatre operations, including the Mosque Theatre in Newark, the largest and most important venue in NJ
  • In 1926, merged with the Stanley Group, a theatre firm based in the Philadelphia area. Was known as Stanley-Fabian.
  • Was a partner in the First National Exchange, and VP of Associated First National Pictures, one of the largest studios in Hollywood
  • By 1928, was part of a group that operated 247 theatres throughout the northeast and had an associated studio.
  • In October of 1928, Vitaphone, Stanley Co. and First National Pictures merged with Warner Bros. in a $200 million deal.
  • Fabian with his sons operated theatres after sale to Warner Brothers. He controlled 40 theatres in NY metro area

Fabian and Wentworth accomplished the remarkable feat of creating memorable theatre experiences for millions in the northern New Jersey area. The following gallery includes highlights of  several of  the theaters that Wentworth designed and Fabian developed.

Wentworth and Fabian –  Buildings of the Jewish Community of Paterson

The collaboration between Fabian and Wentworth was not limited to movie theatres. Fabian’s energy and generosity transformed the institutional life of the Jewish community of Paterson.

There was no better architect than Fred Wesley Wentworth to provide a truly American architectural vocabulary to their aspirations.

Barnert Memorial Hospital

The first building that Wentworth designed for the Jewish community was the Barnert Memorial Hospital. The Jewish community operated a small dispensary for several years and the growing population as well as an increasing number of Jewish physicians created a demand for an independent, Jewish institution.

Barnert Hospital

In 1914, former Mayor Nathan Barnert donated a site on East 30th Street and Broadway and provided an endowment to get the project started. Jacob Fabian, then still in retailing, was the chair of the building committee. The design is a classical revival building with handsome detailing and proportions. The building was constructed of a pink granite base and yellow brick with extensive detailing and rather elaborate materials. Its design was substantive and comforting. The building stood until the mid 1960s when it was demolished for a newer more modern and far less impressive structure.

Temple Emanuel

The grandest and most architectural significant building that Wentworth designed for the Jewish community of Paterson was Temple Emanuel. It is a remarkable work that is iconic in the Paterson community.

It was designed in the late 1920s when Jacob Fabian had reached a level of financial success that enabled him to help finance a major new building that incorporated the lessons he and Wentworth had learned in theatre design and construction.

The building took synagogue design beyond what had existed in Paterson. Temple Emanuel The building was more than simply a house of worship. It was one of the early synagogues with a school building, a complete social hall, an office center and other related facilities.

The design of Temple Emanuel reflects the capabilities of an experience architect and sophisticated client working together. The design of Temple Emanuel was a collaborative effort on the highest order. Wentworth and Fabian put their experience to work in designing large auditoriums in relatively tight urban sites and solving the construction problems of creating open, clear span space. They understood how to exploit the drama of moving from the street, into a tight lobby and then opening into a large public space to create the “wow” experience of surprising volume and design. The building creates a dramatic architectural experience.

The sanctuary is octagonal and heavily influenced by expressionist and art deco designs. The interior walls are a fluted faux terra cotta material. The ark, the center of focus for the Jewish service, is constructed of multi colored fine marble and an ornate golden covered ornamented doors. The octagonal design and clear span structure creates an opportunity for elaborate fenestration and the stained glass over the main sanctuary space in golden colors is remarkable in its design and beauty. The other stained glass windows throughout the sanctuary space emphasize verticality culminating in a highly decorated religious theme, lifting the worshipers upward towards the heavens. Again, the window’s colors cast a golden glow on the attendees.

Exterior view

While somewhat common in 1920s theatre designs, there are few religious buildings that use this vernacular and even for the art deco buildings, the vocabulary of design and decoration in Temple Emanuel is unusual. From the exterior, the gray granite exterior is restrained. The two entry lanterns at either end of the entrance anchor the stairs and shape the processional entry. The overall effect is reminiscent of Expressionist architecture popular in Germany and throughout Europe at the period combined with the art deco theatre buildings in the States. Members of the congregation report that Wentworth hired a synagogue specialist in his office, Abraham Goodman, to assist in the design of the building.

The Paterson YM-YWHA

The Paterson Jewish community’s social and athletic life was centered in Wentworth designed Y in downtown Paterson on Van Houten Street on the former site of Temple Emanuel. The building included social halls, gymnasiums, a swimming pool, class rooms and meeting rooms. The lobby had a snack bar and library of Judaica. For over fifty years, it was an active facility for clubs, dances, social gatherings of all types. The design is an institutional classical design of redbrick with granite ornamentation.