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Leeds Open Air Theatre
Status: Demolished
Location: Green Lake Road, Leeds, NY 12451
Screens: 1
Capacity: 200 cars plus walk-in outdoor seating
Original owner: Built by Paul Marcelli.
Opening date: August 2, 1945
Final season: 1959
What's there now: Unknown.

This page was last updated on December 3, 2009.

The following is the timeline of the Leeds Drive-In as conveyed to me by the original property owners, the Van Vechten family. The site is on the Catskill Creek in the hamlet of Leeds in the town of Catskill. Adjacent is a historic stone arch bridge that brings Route 23B across the creek. At this location owned by the Van Vechten family the bank of the creek is made of solid shale polished smooth by eons of rushing water. Hence the property is known as Slippery Rock and has been used as a public swimming area for many decades.                

It is conveniently off the main street of Leeds, which was dotted with many boarding houses that were frequented by summer tourists from the New York City area and primarily of Irish ancestry. Oftentimes parents would drop off their children to swim while they spent time in one of the Irish pubs on the main street. The Van Vechtens never charged to let people swim at Slippery Rock but around 1930 they built a rudimentary concession stand where hotdogs and such were sold. In 1933 this building was replaced by a small stone refreshment stand that still stands today.

In 1940 they started operation of a walk-in outdoor theatre at the site, again served by the same refreshment stand. That first season patron seating was alongside of the creek where a projector would shoot its beam across the creek onto a fabric screen hung from trees on the opposite shore. At the end of the show a rowboat would traverse the creek and the fragile fabric screen would be rolled up until the following evening when the screen would be unfurled again. The following year a permanent rigid screen face similar to what you would expect at a drive-in theatre but supported by existing mature trees was built on the same side of the creek as the patron seating.

In 1945 the hillside above the movie screen was graded to make ramps for viewing from cars, marking the start of the Leeds Drive-In Theatre. Initially sound was by blast speakers near the screen but they eventually installed speaker boxes mounted on posts between the parked cars. Beyond the back row of the drive-in theatre is an old cemetery where some people would go to watch the movies without paying. The Leeds Drive-In Theatre ceased operation around 1959. Today there are not many clues as to its previous use. The stone refreshment stand is there and the terracing of the hillside lawn for the car ramps is evident. The projection booth is long gone but you can see where the movie projector was attached to the solid rock on the shoreline that first season as a walk-in theatre.

By Ed Caro, Malta Drive-in Owner

 

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Topo Map from 1980, provided courtesy of TerraServer USA. Aerial image from 1994, courtesy of TerraServer USA. Aerial image from 2006 courtesy of Google Earth. Grand opening ad from the Green County Examiner-Recorder on July 26, 1945.
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Article from the Green County Examiner-Recorder on August 23, 1945. New look ad from the Green County Examiner-Recorder on July 26, 1948. Aad from the Green County Examiner-Recorder on June 20, 1956. Leeds Drive-in program outside cover from 1949, courtesy of Ed Caro.
Click on image to view at full size. Click on image to view at full size.    
Leeds Drive-in program inside cover from 1949, courtesy of Ed Caro. Leeds Drive-in playcard from 1957, courtesy of Ed Caro.    

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My memories of Leeds, New York are of the IRISH community, IRISH clubs, bars & restaurants. GREAT IRISH BANDS & MUSIC & DANCING. I visited there many times in the 1970's & had a WONDERFULL TIME! I sometime wonder if anythings still the same? would like to return & find out.
#1 - Dan Devine - 08/07/2011 - 06:56
My relatives used to own the "Glengariff House" boarding house with bungalows. Someone bought it after them I believe in the 1990s. Can you please tell me whatever happened to that place. Thank you.
#2 - Maureen Corry - 05/28/2012 - 13:41
I too remember the Glengariff House, although I only spent a week there as a child many years ago.
We stayed in the main house and I do not remember any bungalows.
It was a really nice place and I enjoyed our stay greatly.
The owners' relatives were great family friends.
#3 - Michael Greene - 03/26/2015 - 11:11
Ah, yes. Leeds, NY brings back some of the most beautiful memories of my life. I worked as a waiter there at Pleasant Acres paying my way through college and graduate school from 1961-1966. The town was hopping and so alive with Irish music and the Irish-Italian-German locals and vacationers all summer until Labor Day. The centerpieces of entertainment and good food were Jerry O'Shea's Irish Center, Gilfeather's-Sligo's Tavern, Samantha's Bar and Bartel's (now Betty's) Restaurant. The friendships I made in town and with the waiters I worked with are still as close today as ever. In fact, I'm completing a nostalgic-Romantic book on my life as a summer waiter in Leeds, entitled "Emerald Greene Blades of Summer." It will be a free-verse poetic delving into the many fun antics, romances and adventures we all had in "Lovely Leeds." That town will forever pulsate in the depths of my soul, teeming with rich recollections and the people who made Leeds, NY a living legend never to be forgotten.
Tony Mattiaccio
#4 - Tony Mattiaccio - 06/25/2015 - 11:48
I just wanted to add on some thoughts/facts to my last email comments. Yes, Leeds for me during the 1960's and for my family during the 1940's & 50's,
was a wonderful little town of great entertainment and fun. Athough I was a waiter at Pleasant Acres for 6 summers, I always remember heading into the main strip of Leeds (Route 23) every night, mostly with a close-knit group of waiters. I usually headed to The Embassy Club on 23 south of Fontaine's Diner (which became Bartel's and currently Betty's).
The Enbassy was always rockin' with small (but terrific) bands, and local girls there were a lovely sight to behold and dance with. Nothing topped the talent that appeared at Jerry O'Shea's Irish Center. I fondly recall hearing and seeing Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, Noel Henry and "Shifty" McKeys with the Vinny Brown band. Those nights are cherished and rife with laughter, good drinks and infectious music: not to mention the great company of my fellow waiters and some of the local Leeds and Catskill population. I wonder whatever became of Eileen Flaherty and Sylvia Alexander from Albany, two of the girls who worked at Jerry O"Shea's during those beautiful summers of the 1960's?
Of course, Sligo's-Gilfeathers, Samantha's Bar, and the Mohegan Trading Post on Rte. 23 and Green Lake Road, also figure prominently in the life-filled Leeds setting. There was also Koch's and the Town And Country Restaurants that served up delicious food. I'd welcome hearing from other lovers of Leeds memories. For me, Leeds will always occupy a precious place in my life.
Tony Mattiaccio
#5 - Tony Mattiaccio - 07/28/2015 - 12:49
Oh my God! Tony Mattiaccio is that really you? Are you the one and only "Tony Matti" waiter and ring-leader of the Pleasant Acres wild and wooly crew: the greatest bunch of waiters ever to grace the Catskill Mountains, and Leeds in particular?
I dated you from 1966-67 and had the most fun I have ever known, you handsome devil you!
Yes you are right, Leeds was the mecca of love, fun and those gorgeous starry nights over Pleasant Acres. I'll NEVER forget the times I spent there in 1965 and the drives to O'Shea's and Sligo's on Route 23. How ARE YOU Tony?
Are you married? Do you have children? I am married to a wonderful guy named Greg and we have 2 boys (men, now). Thank you for showing me the time of my life back in Leeds and our times in the "off-season." I'll never forget them or you. Is the pool at Pleasant Acres still as beautiful at night as always? Is Leeds still the great place I always remember it to be? I'll hold that town and Pleasant Acres in my heart always. God bless you, Tony.
#6 - Lucy Romeo - 07/31/2015 - 10:23
What does the movie "Dirty Dancing" do for
you folks. I used to hang around the resorts
around Greenville when growing up. Making out with the girls from NYC or at least trying to!
#7 - Bill Morehouse - 08/02/2015 - 10:09
More than anything, I wish I could go back to this precious time in my life and re-live the greatest of all times. I was a Waiter in Pleasant Acres for 10 years...my experiences will live on forever. "Live at Leeds"...the places, the wonderful people and the ultimate charm of the Catskills...the fondest of all memories.
#8 - Johnny Caserta - 09/11/2015 - 10:41
I was REALLY surprised to find this nostalgic site while lumbering away my day scanning my computer. I too worked at Pleasant Acres during the summer of 1965 or '66. I was hired as an "entertainment director" for a crowd of roughly 400 guests. Given the nature of many of them, I was often left frustrated. My background is in theatre arts and drama which I found to be unappreciated and irrelevant. Yet I also have wonderful memories of working there (6 days a week). I distinctly recall Tony "Matti" the funny ring-leader of the waiter's group... and Lenny who seemed to be the main fixture of the waiters. Tony was quite the romantic one with the girls who arrived each week with their parents mostly. Lenny was a hard worker and served both in the dining room and the Candlehouse Room where the singers and comedians performed. I believe Lenny was the hardest worker I've ever seen. I agree with Johnny C that the "ultimate charm" of Leeds and the Catskills will always be with me. How I wish I could have a reunion with you young men again someday. That was a time not to be forgotten.
#9 - Don Christie - 09/19/2015 - 15:01
I cant believe I found a Pleasant Acres, Leeds website. I've thought about that place for years and especially of waiter, Tony "Matti." Is has to be the same guy I closely befriended in 1963 when I drove up there for a week in my then new Jaguar XKE. Tony do you remember me? I was living down the street from you on Holland Ave in the Bronx, but it wasn't until Pleasant when we became friends. I was always after "Miss Diana" the children's counselor but I struck out every time. Can't win 'em all I guess. What a time that was, the greatest summers in my life ('63-'65). Tony, we had some great times together - the girls (in general) just couldn't resist us. I know that YOU made out like a bandit with them. And what beauties some of them were.
Do you remember a girl named "Jane" from Catskill?

She was a definite beauty and was really crazy about you while you were busy playing with a different babe every week.
We also had some wild times at Jerry O'Sheas, the Irish dance hall in Leeds. Man, we went on plenty a drinking spree at that joint. What a wild spot that was. We used to wind up the night at the diner across the street from O'Shea's. Up all hours of the night riding in my XKE trying to pick up local girls.
I miss those times and have often wondered how Leeds is these days. I guess I'm too chicken to take a drive up there and have my bubble broken. I can't imagine it looking or being like it was back in the glory days.
I finally got married to a Bronx girl named Annette DiFranco from Adee Ave in the Bronx. We have three kids (in college now) and I'm happy as a pig in mud (yes, me the girl-crazy party animal I was. Tony are you married? Have kids?
Do you ever go back to Pleasant Acres? Is it still there? Would get up the courage to go with you if you decide to take a drive up again. Think of the memories of the wild fun we had... and all those who found you in your little room by the pool!
Please write back and we can exchange phone numbers. Would enjoy seeing you again and reliving old times, lover boy. I guess the Tony Matti on this website is really you, after all.
#10 - Joe Ippolito - 02/19/2016 - 07:49
Hey Joe Ippolito!
Of course I remember you and that crazy-cool XKE you drove. What times we had in that car carousing
around Leeds and Catskill. I can't believe we found each other after all these years. Sure, let's get together ASAP and celebrate the greenest and most beautiful of all Counties. Do you remember the other waiters and dishwashers at Pleasant Acres, like Lenny Q, Tommy C., Alan Bumblebee, Gus, Johnny Oatmeal, Joe Small,Ralph, Bobby, Alan & Steve (brothers), and of course Joe "Bear," the owner of the Resort? Well, Tommy, his brother John (1967), Alan, Ralph, Gus, and myself (plus guys from later years) are all as close as ever. The comradship is incomparable. Okay, let's talk. You can email me at my RockabillyT address. Can't wait to hear from you again. Lot's to discuss. Jimmy Cianci (waiter '65) once said, "The waiters that tray together stay together." How right he is.
Take care my friend. By the way, I'm happily married to a lovely gal named Michelle and we have a daughter who is one special person.
#11 - Tony Mattiaccio - 03/10/2016 - 11:41
Hello To All Pleasant Acres Waiters,

It's the very time of year where the memories and special thoughts fill my heart and spirit with the joy of the Catskills and our forever friendships. How I long for the days when I would be serving Lasagna and Chicken on a Sunday afternoon for our friendly guests at Pleasant Acres. This will always be the most treasured part of my life...the memories and friendships will always be. To all of you who have been part of my life in a truly special way..Peace and Love...Johnny Caserta...Ex Waiter and almost Guitarist
#12 - Johnny Caserta - 06/07/2016 - 09:18
By any chance is this the pleasant acres you are referring to owned by the Sausto family. My family and I spent years vacationing there starting in the 1970s through the sale of the resort somewhere around 2000 or 2001. We had the Best times of our lives there . Someone let me know
Thanks
Stephanie Carter
#13 - Stephanie Carter - 09/15/2016 - 10:49
Does anyone remember the New Brooklyn Boarding House on Church st.,in Leeds NY?
#14 - Richie Scunziano - 09/26/2016 - 11:23
Hi Stephanie,

This is the Pleasant Acres owned by the Saustos for so many years. Pleasant Acres was a second home for so many of us and we all share such vivid and cherished memories from our times spent here. I was a Waiter for about 10 years and it was the best times of my life being a part of all the great friendships that were made. You might possibly remember me from the night club performances. I was the guitar player in a Waiter created band called "The Buffoon 5" and later became the Wanderers. Over this past month, my cousin Tony Matty, another ex-waiter, made a nostalgic visit to Leeds and the Catskill..the memories were so incredible. Richie... where exactly is the New Brooklyn Boarding House? To all of you who have shared the wonderful times at Pleasant Acres...I wish you all the very best...Johnny Caserta
#15 - Johnny Caserta - 09/27/2016 - 10:18
Wow, this site is a find! It was July of 1969. I had not yet turned age 11. The Woodstock Festival would take place not all that far away just about 1 month later. Three Dog Night's cover of Harry Nilsson's "One" was a monster on the charts and on the jukebox in the teen room. The iceberg lettuce primo was timely served. The short, stocky guy with the eyeglasses and the rich Italian accent seem to win every game of bocce. How we found a way to make room for Embassy Pizza after our on-premises dinner remains a mystery to this day! All I know is it was Pleasant Acres, but it was something more. It was a unifying force, bringing our family of 6 into the same room at the same time, truly a rare occurrence. My brother, myself, Dad, Mom, Grandpa and Grandma. Grandma died in '71. Grandpa passed in '78. Mom left us in '98. Benedica le loro anime! Dad is still pushing forward at 92. Chris just turned 60. And I'm weeks away from 58. For those like me who reminisce with fondness and a "happy" tear, what a joy it was to find this site! Thanks!
#16 - Billy Dentato - 10/23/2016 - 23:36
When I was up there in the 70's the Glengariff was owned by Anna & Gene Roche.They gad a daughter named Nancy.There was also a very elderly man who was there every year named " Popein "
On the land above the Glengariff was a two family bungalow owned by Bridie Rocha and she had two children Eileen and Jackie. I am planningto take a trip up there this summer just to see what it is like.On the other side of the road was another resort named Murthas Gypsy Point House.
#17 - maureen corry - 03/20/2017 - 02:47
Does anyone remember the New Brooklyn House on Church Street in Leeds, NY? Went to school with a guy whose family owned Fontains Dinner
back in the 50's! The Brooklyn house was a boarding house for the summer! Use to swim at slippery rock and go to the out door theater.
Went to St. Patricks Academy and sang in choir at St. Bridgets Church in Leeds. Does anyone remember me?
#18 - Richie Scunziano - 03/24/2017 - 19:28
This site certainly is a find! I am planning another nostalgic trip up to Leeds and Catskill this summer. The memories are so clear and the places become so vivid as you stroll through the streets of Leeds with the forever thoughts of Pleasant Acres. All the great ventures, the friends we made will forever be etched in our hearts and souls. Great Richie...not remembering but I probably do know you. Keep in touch all...lets keep this sight alive!
I was also a child of the late 50''s & 60' in Leeds. in response to Maureen Corry,the bungalow above the Glengariff house was owned by Mike and Bridie Roche.I am also going up there this summer to stoke some old memories
#20 - Pat Kelly - 05/09/2017 - 11:22
My grandmother was Agnes Mackie and my mom and all her relatives were Scotch. Every summer we went to the Glengariff House for 2 weeks. Lots of great memories. I remember Nancy Roach and the dining room bell! The Gypsie House across the street.
#21 - Sam Cierzo - 07/22/2017 - 03:08
I miss hearing the bells in the morning, afternoon and evening for our great meals prepared from our legendary Aunt Jessie Sausto. I have such vivid memories of all the great people I have met throughout the years from Pleasant Acres. It was only fitting that I was a waiter(and part time guitar/singer in the night club). The Catskill air and breezes at night were beautiful...I will always be there in my heart.
#22 - Johnny Caserta - 08/08/2017 - 06:13
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