Washington Theatre

1346 19th Street,
Granite City, IL 62040

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Washington Theatre

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The original Washington Theatre was built in 1910 for the Lilian Amusement Co., and sat about 1,200. Located at 1330 19th Street, it was closed and torn down in 1923 when a new Washington Theatre was built nearby on the site of the Washington Airdome.

The second Washington Theatre was designed by architectural firm R. Levine & Company. Acquired in December 1928 by the Skouras Theatres chain. In late-1929 it was taken over by the St. Louis Amusement Co. Still later, the theater was part of the Fanchon & Marco chain.

The theater contained a Barton organ, which was removed after a blaze in 1946, when the theater was slightly remodelled to the plans of architect Leo F. Abrams. It was taken over by Arthur Enterprises in 1957. The theater was remodeled again in 1975. The Washington Theatre operated until 1980.

It was briefly used afterwards for live events but razed in 1993 to make way for a bus depot.

Contributed by Bryan Krefft

Recent comments (view all 20 comments)

Lak on April 22, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Was this theatre originally a live theatre?

RetroMike on June 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm

In the 3rd quarter of 1910, construction began on the Washington Theatre. This was announced in a July, 1910 article from the local newspaper the “Granite City Press Record.”

Initially, there were plans to build a 3 story brick building at the intersection of Cleveland, 19th and “B” streets in Granite City as announced by the architect, G.Y. Murphy. This building would include the theatre, a hotel and business rooms. The plan never materialized but instead another development from Henry C. Buchterkerchen who was a Staunton, IL native was erected at 19th & “E” St.

The building contract was awarded to M.L. Denham and Co. of St. Louis Mo. and would be a two story brick building. The theatre was to be located on the alley between State St. and “E” Street, which was later known as Edison St., on the south side of 19th.

It was leased to L. Landau Jr. of St. Louis Mo. who was secretary and treasurer of a large vaudeville circuit and the president of the Columbia Amusement Company. The theatre was built primarily for motion picture and vaudeville use but also for conventions and other public meetings.

The original plans for the theatre were to include a seating capacity of 800 on the ground level and also include a large balcony. The building was to be 50X100 feet and have a 25 foot stage.

When the theatre opened on Saturday December 10, 1910, it was managed by C.H Dodge. Admission was ten cents for each seat and the program would change three times every week. The schedule would be Saturday-Sunday-Monday and Tuesday with new programs starting on Wednesday and again on Friday.

In February of 1911, Washington Theatre manager C.H. Dodge announced the planning of a “Summer Garden” at an expense of $4,000 to be constructed and opened on or about May 1, 1911 with a capacity of 1,200. The outdoor stage was 40 by 60 feet.

In June of 1911, plans were announced to enlarge the Washington theatre per the architect Charles Pauly & Sons. The plan calls for adding 500 seats increasing the theatre capacity to 1,300 seats. The rear wall was torn out and the orchestra pit set back to make room for the additional seats. The new stage was to be 50 feet wide by 30 feet deep and 30 feet high and would then be larger than the stage outside in the Airdome (Garden).

By 1914, the theatre manager was J.T. Gray.

RetroMike on June 17, 2011 at 10:50 am

The address of the original Washington Theatre was 1332 19th St., and in later years after a rebuild it was moved to a different lot on the same block and the address was 1346. If you click on the photo’s tab you can see another picture that I posted of the theatre in it’s final location. The default picture for the overview page just happens to be the picture that is viewed the most times from the “photo” page.

RetroMike on June 18, 2011 at 11:06 am

Chuck, back in 2004 you posted a comment about some pictures of the theatre of the front and the lobby that you took. Can you please post these?

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 29, 2011 at 2:10 am

I’m puzzled by the references to the “Franchon and Marco circuit” and then “Francon and Marco Circuit” in this theater’s description. If it is meant to read Fanchon and Marco, it can’t possibly be true that they had anything to do with the first Washington Theatre. Fanchon and Marco were teenagers (born 1892 and 1894 respectively) in 1910 when the first Washington was built, and living in California.

Fanchon and Marco would not have built the second Washington Theatre either, as in 1923 they were still producing packaged stage shows, primarily for theaters on the west coast, and had not yet gone into direct operation of theaters (though it’s possible that their older brother Rube had begun building the Los Angeles area circuit he operated, South Side Theatres, by that time.)

As far as I’ve been able to determine, the Fanchon & Marco circuit began its partnership with Harry Arthur in 1934, when rapidly expanding F&M took a long-term lease on the St. Louis Fox Theatre, which Arthur had taken over a few years earlier when William Fox went broke. That was when Arthur joined F&M as general manager of their St. Louis operations. He did not acquire the circuit at that time, so much as the circuit acquired him along with the lease on the Fox.

Arthur might have taken complete control of F&M’s Midwestern operations later, as Fanchon Simon and Marco Wolf concentrated more on their other activities and their Los Angeles area theaters, but I haven’t found much information about that period of the company’s history.

JAlex on December 29, 2011 at 9:52 am

Fanchon & Marco came into the St. Louis-market in October 1933 when they took over operation of the St. Louis Theatre. In January 1934 they took over operation of the Fox Theatre. Along the line they contracted with St. Louis Amusement for the operation of that firm’s theatres. In 1948 F&M acquired St. Louis Amusement. In 1957/58 the Arthur brothers acquired the St. Louis holdings of F&M, becoming Arthur Enterprises.

As for the Granite City Washington, it was first noted as a St. Louis Amusement operation late in 1929.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Thanks for the time line on Fanchon & Marco’s St. Louis operations, JAlex. All I had was a few fragments I’ve picked up from various sources, some of which contradict each other.

And I’ll second Chuck’s call for a separate page for the first Washington Theatre. RetroMike’s comment of June 14 provides plenty of details for one.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on May 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm

The December 22, 1928, issue of Motion Picture News said that the Washington Theatre in Granite City had recently been bought by Skouras Brothers Enterprises. Skouras Brothers planned to expend about $25,000 for improvements to the house, including the installation of Vitaphone sound equipment. The value of the sale was not released, but MPM said that the estimated value of the Washington Theatre was $300,000.

Stephenvb on November 25, 2013 at 3:29 am

This is a dedication to our loving father whom was called home by out heavenly father on November 11, 2013.

Our great grandmother managed theatres in St. Louis so theatre was in dad’s blood. Then while in high school he was in the DECCA program his Junior and Senior years and went to school a half day and worked at the Loew’s State in Downtown St. Louis. Dad loved the movie theatres and started researching them early in his life. He was most fond of the Loew’s State. Mr. Bovin was the City Manager for Loew’s in St. Louis. The two built a special bind. Others there were Nick Manzella the manage and John Muich the assistant manager. Dad wanted to be a pilot above all things though. He did his college and then his flight school, met our mother in college. Through pulling some string by people that could dad was able to get a job with TWA. His life was happy, a beautiful career and a wonderful loving wife. They had three children, Stephen Philip, Christopher Charles and Zachary Benjamin. Mon developed cancer while carrying Zachary and passed away three months after Zachary was born. It was very difficult for all three of us boys but it was extremely hard on dad. He had to do local flights so that he could be home with us as much as possible. We must say we had the greatest dad the heavenly father could put on this earth. As we got older dad was able to work international flights. When we were not in school we would make as many trips with him as possible. Dad joined an online site called Cinema Treasures and it worked out great for him. When he had layovers in his destination cities he would research theatres. Dad joined Cinema Treasures not very long after it went live inline. He joined on October 6, 2003 and over the years has contributed more than 5,000 theatres, 14,000 comments and almost 4,000 photos to the site. Dad lived for his sons first, flying second and the theatres were his one and only hobby. He made some special friends on Cinema Treasures, Patsy from down south, Ken from New York,, Randy Carlisle the great photographer from Texas, Don Lewis from the Dallas Fort Worth area (Don is also a airline worker with Southwest) but they all are contributors to Cinema Treasures. There is also Ken Roe from the United Kingdom who was a wonderful friend to dad. Out Mom was born and raised in the UK. Being a pilot dad had his favorites to fly to. His number one spot was Hawaii. That is where mom and dad were buried. They are there is spirit and we well be able to feel that spirit when we go over there. Mom and Dad had their condo new Honolulu on the ocean and he spent the mainland cold months in HI. We have family and friends in St. Louis, Salt Lake City and of course Hawaii so we had to have services at all three places before dad was finally buried. Dad got me started on Cinema Treasure but I don’t know if I will ever be able to fill his shoes. But I will try. Mahalo to all those that have helped me so far, especially Joe Vogel and Ken. Ken I can’t count the times that when we were around dad and he would read your comments and just bust out laughing. You touched his heart in so many way. I know there are many others but those mentioned in this dedication are the one that dad talked about most of the time. His love through my spirit goes out to you all. You are all treasures in so many ways and thru a treasure that your friendships came to fruitation “Cinema Treasures” Mahalo to you all. Dad really fought a tough battle but his body was so weak from the first tumor that he didn’t have the physical strength to beat it this time. I tried to be there for him as much as possible and sometimes I felt like I wasn’t there enough. Being the firstborn there was a special bind between the two of us. I still feel the flow involuntarily when I go through his theatre research, when I see something that was special to him, his photos. Time will help I know. And since we were all sealed together in the Temple I know we will all be together again one day.

Well to all I say Mahalo and Aloha (An eternal Aloha to Patsy from dad)

Stephen Philip Van Bibber, Christopher Charles Van Bibber, Zachary Benjamin Van Bibber

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 25, 2013 at 10:39 pm

My condolences to you and your family, Stephen. Your dad will be sorely missed at Cinema Treasures, as I’m sure he will be by everyone who knew him off the Internet as well. His many valuable contributions to this site will be remembered with great appreciation.

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