The maps—which were produced using grant money—will be available and free to the public at next weekend’s jitney and walking tours from the Fort Lee Museum.
Thanks to a $2,000 Bergen County History Grant, The Fort Lee Film Commission has produced a “Fort Lee Film History Map,” identifying important locations in the borough’s history as the birthplace of the motion picture industry.
The film commission will be distributing copies of the map during its upcoming historic jitney and walking tours of Fort Lee; the special project grant allowed the film commission to distribute it to the public at no charge.
The two-sided film history map will feature a map of Fort Lee on one side with white and black numbers corresponding respectively to structures that once stood at a particular location but are no longer there, and structures that are still standing, said Fort Lee Film Commission executive director Tom Meyers.
For example, a structure like Alice Guy Blache’s Solax Studio on Lemoine Ave. where the A&P now stands will be marked with a white number—although there is an historical marker at the location—while the Brulatour building on Jane St., which is now a film storage building, will be marked with a black number.
The other side of the map will feature photos and information about famous film locations and personalities from the film industry who lived in Fort Lee, Meyers said.
“Basically it affords people the ability to understand the film history of Fort Lee by looking at this map, but also going out on their own and taking a look at some of these sites,” Meyers said. “Our goal is hopefully to bring greater awareness, most specifically to those sites that still stand, in the hopes that [it results in] knowledge and tools for preservation. Hopefully people see that we lost a lot but still have some really great history here. Our goal is to try to preserve what’s left and to promote Fort Lee as the birthplace of the motion picture industry.”
The maps will be available at two events taking place next weekend, Oct. 29 and 30. The first is the fall historic jitney tour on Saturday, Oct. 29. Tour sign up is from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis at the Fort Lee Museum, and buses leave from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m.
Meyers said organizers of the jitney tours try to change things up each time they’re offered, “because we have a lot of people come again, and we don’t want to make it too repetitive.”
“I don’t want give anything away, but this tour will be leaning towards the history of Fort Lee in terms of the American Revolution,” he said.
On the following day, Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. at the museum, Meyers will lead a film history walking tour based on the new film history map and concentrated specifically on Main St. Meyers will lead participants from the east end of Main Street to West Fort Lee, close to the Leonia border, and back, with the map in hand and some additional photos of various locations.
“People may walk into the Fort Lee Public Library, for example, and not know what was there before that library was there,” Meyers said. “And before that library was there, there was a home called the Mannix house. Eddie Mannix was probably the most prominent person from Fort Lee to go west and get involved in the film industry there as the superintendent of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1924 until he died in 1963. He often came back to Fort Lee. He was largely forgotten, but he was a huge, huge personality and power in the movie industry and Golden Age of Hollywood.”
Meyers also said the Brulatour building on Jane St., built by Jules Brulatour, an executive with Eastman Kodak, which provided the film stock for a lot of the movie studios in Fort Lee in the early days of cinema, will be part of the walking tour.
“Hopefully [people will] take these maps out and explore themselves, and we’re hopeful that the school system will be able to take some of our maps and distribute them to local history classes in the Fort Lee public schools,” Meyers said.
For more information on the historic jitney tours on Saturday, Oct. 29, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., or the film history walking tour on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m.—both of which start at the Fort Lee Museum—visit the Fort Lee Film Commission online, or call 201-693-2763.