Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse
1826 3rd Avenue,
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Circa '21 Dinner Playhouse (Official)
Previously operated by: Dubinsky Brothers
Architects: William T. Braun, Benjamin A. Horn
Firms: Cervin & Horn
Functions: Live Performances, Movies, Restaurant
Previous Names: Fort Armstrong Theatre, Fort Theatre
The Fort Theatre, also known as the Fort Armstrong Theatre, is another classic theatre that started off with silent pictures/vaudeville and then switched exclusively to movies. It opened on January 19, 1921 with 1,800 seats.
The theatre was decorated with a Western theme that was in keeping with its pioneer past, including teepee chandeliers. It was closed in 1971 and became an adult movie theatre, which closed in 1973.
In the late-1970’s, Dennis Hitchcock purchased the theatre, terraced the main floor, installed tables, and renamed it the ‘Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse’. Mr. Hitchcock otherwise left the theatre’s color and style as they were.
While the main floor has a small entrance and lobby, there is a large lounge on the 2nd floor.
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The Fort is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Opened in 1921, the Fort Armstrong Theater was designed by architect Benjimin Horn of the Cervin & Horn practice, associate architect was W.T. Braun. The architectural style is Native Indian and it had a seating capacity of 1623.
I have some memories of this place. This was THE main theater in the Quad Cities. It was strictly first-run. It also had a hotel, which was built a few years after the theater. The Showcase Cinemas in Milan relegated the Fort to lesser status. Had it not been for David Hitchcock, it probably wouldn’t exist today. He turned it into Circa 21 Dinner Playhouse in 1976. The hotel is now a senior citizen apartment building.
1925 photo added courtesy of the Retro Quad Cities Facebook page.
1921 photo added courtesy of the Retro Quad Cities Facebook page.
The August 7, 1920, issue of The Moving Picture World had a long description of the Fort Armstrong Theatre, then under construction:
Quad-City Times piece on the Fort Theatre with multiple historic photos.