Princess Theatre

112 N. Market Street,
Ottumwa, IA 52501

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This theatre was in existence around 1920.

There is no other description available for this theatre. If you know anything about this theatre, please email us!

Contributed by Bob Jensen

Recent comments (view all 9 comments)

MiltonSmith on July 15, 2008 at 4:50 pm

I think I might have some info. that sheds light on this theater and why no one can find info. on it.

According to the local history, the building located at 108 to 112 N. Market Street is known as the Benson Block and was originally built in 1924 as a theater. However, there were not enough exits built in to the building so it was never used for that purpose. So, it seems the Princess Theater may have never been a theater after all!

Here are some pics to the building as it looks today. As well as other theaters in Ottumwa, IA.

There is also links to pics of other theaters, in Ottumwa, IA in this set of photos.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on March 23, 2014 at 6:13 pm

The Princess Theatre is one of five movie houses listed for Ottumwa in the 1922-1923 edition of the Film Daily Yearbook.

SethG on June 20, 2015 at 5:36 pm

According to the NRHP listing for the Benson Block, the theater was under construction in 1924, but there was a requirement for rear fire exits. Since the site is very shallow (being the north half of a building that ran down to the corner before a fire damaged it), there was no room for the exits, and it sat empty until 1935. So no, it never was a theater. They never even finished the interior.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 20, 2015 at 9:04 pm

The Princess Theatre in Ottumwa was also mentioned in the August, 1918, issue of Theatre Magazine, so it predated the Benson Block by several years.

SethG on July 27, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Then that’s a different theater entirely. The building on this site was never a theater. It was a store/warehouse before the fire.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 27, 2015 at 1:19 pm

I figured that the owners of the Princess were most likely planning to move their operation to the new building but were unable get a permit to do so because of the problem with the fire exits. They ought to have hired a more knowledgeable architect.

In any case, the original Princess was clearly the one Bob Jensen intended to list, as he says it was in operation around 1920, but the page got sidetracked by MiltonSmith’s comment about the failed theater built in 1924. It seems more sensible that Cinema Treasures would have a page about a theater that actually operated than about one that never did.

But we still know nothing about the Princess Theatre that Bob submitted except that it was in operation by 1918, when it was mentioned in the August issue of Theatre Magazine, and was still listed in the 1922-1923 film yearbook. It’s quite possible that it was demolished to make way for the building that became the Benson Block, but we just don’t know that it was. It might have been in a different location.

SethG on July 29, 2015 at 7:03 pm

Actually we do know that it was not demolished for the Benson Block. Once again, the building that was on the ‘theater’ lot and the lot to the south (right in streetview), was a store/warehouse. The Benson Block is the north half of the old fire damaged building, heavily remodeled. So the other Princess you are talking about needs a different listing, or this Princess needs to be deleted.

Obviously, having the same name, it would make sense that they intended to move into the new building. But it would have been from a different address, and since you can’t have two map markers and two streetviews, and nothing except the name and possibly management would have been the same, the Princess you are talking about needs a listing of its own.

robboehm on July 29, 2015 at 7:41 pm

What about the library or the historical society to sort it out and maybe come up with a photo.

DRum on January 5, 2017 at 4:12 pm

This does look like a movie theatre but all the research I did I was unable to find evidence of a theatre at that location. The old opera house was made into a theatre but I dont remember name or years. it is now Market on Main.

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