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The Armory Opera House at Clarinda is listed in the 1914 edition of the Iowa State Gazetteer and Business Directory. It isn’t listed in the 1909-1910 Cahn guide, so might not have opened yet at that time, but the house is listed in the 1913-1914 Cahn guide as a ground floor theater with 800 seats on the main floor, 400 seats in the balcony, and a gallery seating 200. The proscenium opening was 32x25 feet, the stage 55 feet between side walls and 33 feet to back wall, with an apron 3 feet deep.
A vintage postcard (link is probably temporary) shows a sign for the Bon-Ton Theatre on the second floor of the building at the northwest corner of Glenn Miller Avenue (aka 16th Street) and Main Street. This building was originally Hawley’s Opera House, built in 1880 by J. D. Hawley, and designed and erected by local architect/builder N. A. Olston. The 1909-1910 Cahn guide lists the house:
“CLARINDA- Pop 4,000. Hawley’s Opera House. J.D. Hawley mg.r S c 7oo. Prices 25c 50c and 75c. llum elec. E Howard elect. Width of prosc opening 20 ft. Height 21 ft. Footlights to back wall 21 ft. Curtain line to footlights 3 ft. No grooves. Depth under stage 5 ft. Distance between side walls 50 ft. 2 traps located center and at each side. Scene room. Theatre on second floor.
A guide to Clarinda says: “Clarinda Hawley’s Opera House Mural The mural was painted by mural artist, Kelly Poling, featuring the former Hawley’s Opera House that used to be located in the building. The mural has created a beautiful focal point for the downtown area in preserving Clarinda’s historical culture.” There’s no clue as to what occupies the theater space now.
Hawley’s Opera House was still listed in the 1914 edition of the Iowa State Gazetteer and Business Directory, which probably went to press in late 1913, so 1914 is likely the year the name was changed to Bon-Ton Theatre. The directory also lists an Armory Opera House in Clarinda, probably the house that became the Armory Theatre.
A Commonwealth Journal article about the Virginia Cinema dated September 22, 2016, says that the Downtown Somerset Development Corporation would like to restore the house, which closed in 1994, and some adjacent vacant store buildings as a multi-use public facility that could host live events as well as occasional movies.
The Virginia Theatre was built in 1922 by T. E. Jasper and was named for his daughter. The February 9, 1922, issue of Manufacturers Record had this item about the project:
“Ky., Somerset- T.E. Jasper will erect building for moving picture theater, stores and offices; cost $25,000; 58x118 f;, brick and ornamental terra cotta; built up roof; cement and tile floors; metal ceilings and doors; interior tile; wire glass; ventilators; vault lights; steam heat; electric lights; Geo L Elliott, Archt. (Lately noted).”
The finding aid to the Frankel and Curtis architectural records at the University of Kentucky lists the following: “Remodeling project comprised of 49 pages of construction and record drawings, including elevations, sections, floor plans, details, schedules, and sizes of materials.” The records pertaining to the Capitol are dated 1929 and 1936. The Frankel and Curtis collection has not yet been digitized.
The major addition to the Grand Theatre in 1941 was designed by the Lexington architectural firm Frankel and Curtis, and is listed in the finding aid to the Frankel and Curtis papers as the New Grand Theatre for Frankfort Amusement Company.
The partnership of architects Leon K. Frankel and John J. Curtis was formed in 1919. Frankel’s son James S. Frankel joined the firm as a draftsman in 1933 and became a partner in 1945.
The NRHP nomination form for the Troy Downtown Commercial Historic District (PDF here) says that the Enzor Theatre was designed by the Birmingham firm Okel & Son. Due to extensive alterations, the theater was determined not to be a contributing structure in the district. Nevertheless, the form contains a section of drawings, photos, and newspaper articles about the theater on pages 21 through 27. The Art Deco style house, which opened in July, 1936, was originally operated by Paramount affiliate Wilby-Kincey.
Architect Edward Okel had previously been a partner in the firm of Okel & Cooper, who designed the 1908 Grand Opera House in Montgomery. Okel also designed two project for Jake Wells' Bijou Theatre Company in 1908, to have been built in Atlanta and in Mobile, Alabama, but I’ve been unable to identify either house or determine if either was actually built. In 1938, his son William J. Okel drew the plans for a remodeling of a Wilby_Kincey house at Selma, Alabama, but again I’ve been unable to discover which house it was.
What became of the Globe Theatre building after it ceased to be a theater is revealed in these photographs showing the Union Stage (bus) Depot in 1932. The waiting room was probably the former auditorium.
By the time I first saw the building the auditorium space had been converted into a parking garage, and the bus depot’s corner entrance had been replaced by a liquor store.
This would be a view east along Fifth Street from Los Angeles Street, most likely between 1908 and 1915, and it was probably taken by someone leaning out of an upper floor window on the Fifth Street side of the Baltimore Hotel, which is still standing at the southwest corner of the intersection. East Fifth Street was already getting a bit disreputable by the 1910s, but it doesn’t look half bad in this photo.
The California never had side boxes, but the Follies did, as did the Burbank, which was built in 1893 when that feature was still de rigueur. As I was never inside either of them I don’t know how much of their interiors survived later remodeling jobs. Both got streamline modern exteriors, but the one on the Follies was removed for some reason (possibly it was damaged by the 1952 Tehachapi earthquake, which was fairly strong even in Los Angeles) and I have no memory of it. The Burbank kept its streamlined exterior to the end.
The California was showing regular movies at least as late as 1983, though it might have shown x-rated stuff earlier, as well as later. This photo from Ken McIntyre’s Facebook album shows the California with the 1983 film The Outsiders among those listed on the marquee.
I regret not having been more adventurous when I first began going downtown on my own in the early 1960s. I attended all the major theaters still open on Broadway and Hill Street south of Sixth, but never went to the rest of the downtown houses, other than the Regent, because they looked a bit too dicey to me. The only reason I saw the Regent was because a more adventurous friend insisted on seeing a movie there that he had missed earlier.
An advertisement in the October 12, 1950, issue of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle said that the Waring Theatre would be opening soon.
A article in the Democrat & Chronicle of November 20, 2015, indicates that the Waring was multiplexed by 1983, but doesn’t say how many screens it was carved into. Being a modest sized neighborhood house, it was most likely twinned.
The Waring was operated by the regional chain Martina Theatres from opening at least into the 1970s. A Democrat & Chronicle article from June 19, 1996, says that the house changed hands multiple times in the 1980s and 1990s, then after being closed for more than a year was reopened by an independent operator named Matthew Bergin in 1996. That’s the most recent reference to the house I’ve found on the Internet.
vienna: While the Pussycat chain usually did spruce up the theaters they took over, I don’t think they did much with the California. It was very large, and anything more than cosmetic changes would have been very costly. I believe they only had a short term lease on the house, in any case. Pussycat’s main downtown location was the Town Theatre on Hill Street, which they operated for almost two decades. I don’t think they took over the California until after the Town closed, though.
I never went to the California, but in the mid-1980s I had occasion to pass by it on foot on several occasions, and from the outside it looked pretty much as it had in the 1960s when it was being operated as a Spanish language movie house.
The only Main Street theater I ever attended was the Regent, back in the 1960s when it was a fairly busy triple-feature grind house. I only went there once, and it was pretty grim, with more than a few of the seats occupied by sleeping drunks.
davidcoppock: I’ve wondered about it myself, but have never been able to discover if there was a person called Linda Lea. A web page which is no longer available (not even at the Internet Archive’s wayback machine) said that the first Linda Lea Theatre opened in the former Fuji-Kan Theatre at 324 E. First Street on February 10, 1945. It presented stage shows as well as movies for an African American audience.
The Japanese population had been interned in camps during the second world war, and Little Tokyo filled up with workers, predominantly Black or Mexican, who had come to work in L.A.’s booming wartime industries. Following the war, as the Japanese gradually returned to the neighborhood, the Linda Lea went back to its original function as a Japanese language movie house, but instead of returning to its pre-war name Fuji-Kan it kept the name Linda Lea. The Japanese management kept the name even when they moved their operation to this house on Main Street around 1955.
It’s possible that there is still someone around who knows if there was a person named Linda Lea for whom the theater was renamed in 1945. If there was a Linda Lea, given the programming of the theater at that time, she was probably African American. I suspect that if anyone ever discovers the origin of the name it will be someone researching the history of the Black community in Los Angeles.
vienna: I’m getting a fatal exception when I try to use the link you posted. I’m wondering if the photo was this one? I only get three results when I search the LAPL database with “Linda Lea” and that’s the only one that actually gives a good view of the building, albeit when it was the Arrow Theatre.
I’m trying to puzzle out which Main Street theater you attended in the early 1970s that might have resembled an opera house. The only two old legit houses still standing by then were the Burbank Theatre and the Follies Theatre. The actual first opera house in Los Angeles was the theater listed here as the Grand, which was opened in 1884 and demolished in the late 1930s, but the Burbank, opened in 1883, was a large legitimate theater for many years before being converted to L.A.’s leading burlesque house, and the Follies, a bit smaller than the Burbank, opened in 1910 as the Belasco, and also became a burlesque house for many years. I believe both finished their days with x-rated movies.
There was also the large and very ornate California Theatre, opened in 1918 as a combination vaudeville and movie house, which later became a Spanish language movie theater and finally became part of the adult movie Pussycat chain. I’m not sure when the California closed, but it was demolished in 1989. I think the California is the most likely candidate to have been the theater you recall attending in the 1970s, as it was mostly intact up to the end, never having been extensively remodeled.
In 1970 there were also two good-sized early movie houses still operating on Main Street: The Optic, which remained in business with x-rated fare through the 1970s, and the Regent which, against all the odds, has survived and recently been renovated and reopened for live events, mostly musical. I believe all the other theaters still operating on Main Street in 1970, the Linda Lea excepted, were small storefront houses unlikely to be mistaken for once-grand theaters.
The Rivoli had two entrances; one on Baltimore Street, and the other facing War Memorial Plaza on Fayette Street. This photo uploaded to our photo page by elmorovivo shows the Fayette Street entrance, while this photo uploaded by Granola shows the Baltimore Street entrance.
The Sun article rivest266 found says that architect Benjamin Frank designed the 1916 theater that replaced the 1913 house on the site that had been ruined by fire in January, 1916.
The May 26, 1900, issue of The Engineering Record carried a notice soliciting construction bids for a 3-story auditorium, office and store building in Middletown, PA., for the Middletown Market Company. The project was designed by Harrisburg architectural firm W. O. Weaver & Sons.
Back when we were conflating the Smyrna Theatre with the old Smyrna Opera House, Cinema Treasures member kencmcintyre linked on the Opera House page to three photos of this house on his Photobucket. He isn’t around to move the links, so I’ll make new links here:
Back wall of auditorium
Screen end of auditorium
Here is the web site of the Smyrna Opera House. A history page says that the walls of the two lower floors survived the 1948 fire, but the top floor and decorative tower were unrepairable and were demolished. The two surviving floors were roofed over, leaving a flat-roofed, two-story structure, but when the building was renovated a few years ago the mansarded third floor and tower were reconstructed.
The current occupant of 106 W. Commerce Street is Painted Stave Distilling, producers and purveyors of spirits. The building houses their production facility, tasting room, and an event venue which can be rented. Their web site includes some current photos and a brief history of the theater.
The closest thing to a vintage photo is a shot of the screen end of the auditorium that appears to be from just before the remodeling into a distillery. The screen was long gone, but some of the original decorative detail (far more Streamline Modern than Colonial Revival) remained at that time. In the current photos the interior bears no resemblance to a theater.
The Matsonian Theatre was in a different building than the Isis. Articles in The Caldwell News prior to the opening of the new house called it the Isis Theatre, but an item in the Friday, February 14, 1930, issue of the paper, which also carried an article about the opening the previous Monday (Feb. 9) announced a contest to name the new theater. Another front page article said that the Isis Theatre’s former location in the Barnett Building was being remodeled to accommodate a Piggly Wiggly grocery store.
An item in a January issue of the paper had said that Mrs. C.W. Matson, who had taken over operation of the Isis Theatre, had leased a building formerly occupied by a Buick dealership and would remodel it as a new home for the theater. The opening of the new house also marked the debut of talking pictures in Caldwell.
This weblog post, which features some splendid photos of the terra cotta detail of the Clermont’s facade, says that the facade is to be the only part of the building saved. A seven-story building will replace the theater itself.
The article says that the house opened in 1909 as the Garibaldi Theatre, closed in 1911, and reopened as the Clermont, which it remained until closing in 1945.
Thanks, John. I was sure we had the wrong address for the theater.
The portion of the building that housed the theater entrance must have been that part that now has a storefront with red brick on it. 6162 is the most likely address.
The captioned version of the photo uploaded by wsasser says: “From 1945 to 1954, the Norview movie theater was one of the main attractions of Sewells Point Road.” Those years of operation suggest that the house never converted to CinemaScope.
I can’t read the name of the first movie on the marquee in the photo, but the second feature, West of Sonora, was released in March, 1948, according to IMDB. “B” westerns such as that had a short shelf life, so that’s probably the year the photo was taken.
The Avenue was being operated by Milwaukee movie theater pioneer Henry Trinz when it was mentioned in the November 4, 1916, issue of Motography, which described the house as a “Neighborhood theater, catering to a middle class.”
The principals of Wright, Porteous & Lowe were George Caleb Wright, his son William Caleb Wright, Alfred John Porteous, and C. Charles Lowe, Jr.