Photo exhibit celebrates Orchard Beach Pavilion

The splendor of Orchard Beach’s Art Deco Pavilion is recaptured in a new photo exhibit at the City Island Nautical Museum.

The exhibit of photos of the storied entranceway to the beach, called “A Landmark Pavilion at Orchard Beach,” features more than 50 photographs dating back to when the building was first constructed in 1937. It is now on display at the City Island Historical Society and Nautical Museum at 190 Fordham Street.

The exhibition of classic photographs celebrating the art-deco building, which was constructed by Parks Commissioner Robert Moses using federal funding available during the Great Depression, was the brainchild of City Islander Deborah Wye. An opening was held at the museum on Sunday, July 17, with 75 people attending.

“I began thinking about the pavilion in August, and then went to the Bronx County Historical Society to research it, and I knew I wanted to learn more about the building and visit,” Wye said. “It is a designated city landmark right here in Pelham Bay Park, but unfortunately, the building is deteriorating.”

The photographs recapture the splendor of the pavilion shortly after it opened, when it was used as a bathhouse with locker rooms for men and women, she said. An elevated and columned terrace offered areas where beachgoers could sit and relax, while the lower level featured a cafeteria-style restaurant, Wye said.

“Particularly with the 75th anniversary of Orchard Beach, it seemed like the right moment to celebrate the building,” Wye said. “I thought that the aspect that needed to get some special attention is the pavilion. Since my own background is art, and I am particularly interested in architecture, I worked on this exhibit over the past year.”

The restoration of the pavilion, which is currently under study by the Parks Department, is a goal of the Friends of Pelham Bay Park, who co-sponsored the exhibition along with the City Island Historical Society and Nautical Museum and the Pelham Bay Park Administrator’s office.

“Friends of Pelham Bay Park hopes to launch a conservancy in 2012 that will raise funds specifically earmarked for Pelham Bay Park and Orchard Beach,” said Friends of Pelham Bay Park president Lizbeth Gonzalez.

“The City Island Museum’s exhibit highlights the historical significance of the Orchard Beach Pavilion, and we hope to restore the Pavilion in conjunction with the Parks Department, so that this historic landmark once again become a destination point in New York City.”

The goal is to reopen the pavilion, which is currently fenced off because of structural concerns, and to find modern uses for the building, Wye said.

The exhibit will be on display until the fall.

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