Washington Theater

425 Hampshire Street,
Quincy, IL 62301

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Washington Theatre  Quincy, IL  June 1995

Opened June 19, 1924 as the Washington Square Theater. It was named for the park of the same name which it faces in downtown Quincy. The Washington Theater was one of many vaudeville and movie houses on Hampshire Street, which was Quincy’s own “Great White Way”. Most of the theatres, such as the Adams Theatre, the Orpheum Theatre, the Bijou Theatre, the Quincy Theatre and the Savoy Theatre have either long ago been closed, or more commonly, torn down.

The Italian Renaissance-style Washington Theater, which seated just under 1,500, was designed by Chicago architect E.P. Rupert. It featured a Barton 3 manual, 7 rank organ, and a depiction of George Washington on the fire curtain. Its ornate facade was covered in terra-cotta, including polychrome masks of comedy and tragedy.

In 1926, the Chicago-based chain of Balaban & Katz assumed control of the Washington Theater, and not only remodeled its decor, but added a new stage, an air-conditioning system, rebuilt the dressing rooms and, a couple years later, wired the Washington Theater for sound, becoming Quincy’s first “talking pictures” house, with the film “The Lights of New York”. Vaudeville and stage shows were featured as well through the 1930’s under Balaban & Katz.

In 1971, the Washington Theater was sold to the Kerasotes Theatres chain, which continued to operate the theatre as a first-run house for another eleven years. After closing the theatre, Kerasotes donated the Washington Theater to the City of Quincy. From the late-1980’s until 2000, another organization owned the building and while it made repairs to the facade and storefronts, the auditorium was used for storage space.

In 2000, the City of Quincy once more acquired the Washington Theatrer, and since then, the Friends of the Washington Theater have been raising money (its goal is $1.1 million for the initial phase of restoration) to return the landmarked old movie palace (which has fallen into a state of disrepair over the years) to its former splendor. In 2018 it was reopened as a special events venue.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

Scott on February 25, 2010 at 8:09 am

Apparently the Washington Theatre received a newly renovated marquee on Sept. 11, 2009. The theatre also received new entrance doors and entrance tile. They look excellent. For more information on this and the planned renovation, see the theatre’s web site, which is listed in the description above.

TLSLOEWS on March 2, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Wow the marquee sure looks a lot better now.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 23, 2011 at 4:35 am

Here is a link to photographer Edmund J. Kowalski’s photos of the Washington Theatre taken June 25, 2005, before the house was restored.

CarltonSmith on September 4, 2013 at 5:01 pm

The information above on the organ in the Washington Theatre is incorrect! The Washington had a 3/7 Barton organ (1924). The Orpheum Theatre in Quincy had the Wurlitzer, a style B (1924).

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 19, 2015 at 7:47 pm

This house appears to have opened as the Washington Square Theatre. Click the thumbnail at left for an interior photo on this page with a photo of the front. The May 3, 1924, issue of The Moving Picture World had this item:

“The new Washington Square Theatre, Quincy, Ill., will open on June 15, according to present plans. ‘If Winter Comes’ will be the opening feature.”

TriStateFans on October 22, 2015 at 2:28 pm

The renovations of the Washington are underway, and the house is “safe” to open up for special fundraising events (even though the venue is far from finished.

You can read about their progress by checking out their website, http://quincywashingtontheater.org/

robboehm on March 26, 2016 at 12:55 pm

The Do You Remember site of the University of Illinois cites June 16, 1914 as the opening date as a vaudeville house with the first film being shown as The Temple of Venus on January 16, 1926 and the first talkie, The Lion and the Mouse on November 4, 1928.

robboehm on March 26, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Uploaded the ad for the opening of the talkie The Lion and the Mouse from the Quincy Public Library collection.

Mister_Comics on August 10, 2018 at 5:07 pm

The Washington Theater is now open for special events. I was there Aug. 9, 2018. See some of the photos in the PHOTOS section that I posted. Just across the Park (Washington Park) the Quincy Museum has information on the theater on display. This was the 1st theater to show a “talkie” in Quincy, Illinois. BTW, the famous 1858 Lincoln – Douglas sixth debate took place in Washington Park.

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