535 2nd Avenue,
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Built for “Cap” Lathrop in 1927 by archictect Paul G. Carlson, the 670-seat Empress Theatre was the first Fairbanks structure built with concrete, which many thought would not hold up through the frigid Alaskan winters.
Besides movies, the Empress Theatre featured live stage shows, legitimate theater, and concerts. In the early-1950’s, the theater was heavily modernized by the architectural firm Calson, Eley, Grevstad with bold new decor including a large, neon-lit marquee.
In 1961, the Empress Theatre, which was a center for Fairbanks nightlife for decades, was closed.
The former theater today serves as a shopping center, called the Co-Op Plaza, with its facade restored to it’s simple 1920’s appearance, the garish 1950’s marquee is long since removed.
The Empress Theatre is just down Second Avenue from the Lacey Street Theatre, an Art Deco style gem that now houses the Fairbanks Ice Museum.
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