Washington Theatre

1346 19th Street,
Granite City, IL 62040

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 2, 2017 at 7:12 pm

A Facebook photo album for the Washington Theatre, with 100 photos and scans of articles, can be seen at this link. The information in the articles clarifies the theater’s history.

The “second” Washington Theatre, opened on December 21, 1923, was actually just a new auditorium constructed behind the 1910 theater building, and at right angles to the original auditorium. The long, narrow lobby noted in the article cited in my previous comment ran through the 1910 building, and the remainder of the original auditorium was converted to retail space. The airdome next door was not closed, but continued to operate during the summer at least into the late 1920s.

Although the Facebook album doesn’t extend to the period of the fire, it seems very likely that the Streamline Modern entrance at 1349 19th Street dates from the 1946 post-fire remodeling designed by Leo F. Abrams. It was this entrance, not the second auditorium of 1923, that occupied part of the site of the former airdome.

As part of the original theater building was used until 1945 as the entrance and lobby for the new auditorium of 1923 it now seems unnecessary to have a separate page for the original theater built in 1910, but we could add to this page the architects of the 1911 expansion, Charles Pauly & Son, as noted by RetroMike in his comment of June 14, 2011. It’s possible that the firm designed the original theater of 1910 as well.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on January 2, 2017 at 5:37 pm

The September 1, 1923, issue of The Moving Picture World ran this brief article about the second Washington Theatre, then under construction in Granite City:

“Granite City, Ill., Theatre to Seat 3,000, Cost $250,000

“The New Washington Theatre, Nineteenth and E streets, Granite City, 111., will open on the evening of October 5 when a big benefit performance will be put on for its owner-manager, Louis Landau, Jr. The theatre will cost approximately $250,000 and will have 3,000 seats in the parquet and balcony. It will be among the finest amusement houses in Southern Illinois.

“Landau plans to play both pictures and vaudeville. The house will have a stage 65 feet long and a proscenium arch with an opening 35 by 50 feet. The lobby and arcade will measure 18 by 154 feet. There will be several rest rooms for the ladies, smoking rooms for the gents and checking stations, etc. He also is installing a three-manual organ and plans to enlarge his orchestra.”

The claim of 3,000 seats must have been considerably exaggerated, if the reported capacity of 1,750 in the November, 1945 newspaper article about the fire, cited in a comment by kencmcintyre on November 8, 2008, was correct.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 26, 2013 at 12:39 am

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.

Stephenvb on November 25, 2013 at 5:29 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 May 31, 2012 at 5:26 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.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 29, 2011 at 5:41 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.

JAlex on December 29, 2011 at 11:52 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 4:10 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.

RetroMike on June 18, 2011 at 1:06 pm

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?

RetroMike on June 17, 2011 at 12:50 pm

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 14, 2011 at 10:24 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.

Lak on April 22, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Was this theatre originally a live theatre?

kencmcintyre on November 8, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Maybe they took out some seats after the fire, if they originally had 1750.

kencmcintyre on November 8, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Here is an article dated 11/27/45 from the Edwardsville Intelligencer:

Granite City, Nov.27â€"Fire early today destroyed the interior of the Washington Theater here and caused damage estimated at $75,000. Fire chief Louis Grotz said the blaze apparently started in the projection booth shortly before 5 a.m. and spread quickly through the 1,750 seat structure along air conduits. Fire companies from Granite City and Madison finally brought the flames under control.

dejawho on May 22, 2008 at 11:44 pm

My grandfather, Patrick Marmion, was projectionist at the Washington throughout my youth and up until he died around 1963-64. He used to take me into the booth during movies and let me watch him change reels! The manager’s name was Christ Paschoff and he was the one that gave out the guitars. Surprisingly though, in all of the piles of films and photos belonging to my greandpa, there were NONE of the beautiful Washington Theater! If anyone can send me ANY photos I’d be forever greatful!

sides on January 17, 2007 at 6:37 am

Thanks so much for sharing the picture of the Washington Theatre. I still have my August 1945 Telephone Directory, and the listing for the Theatreis 1336 19th Street, phone number TriCity-82. I remember the Usher’s, and walking up and down the aisle with them, when I was scared of the particular movie they were showing. I would attend every Saturday matinee’s, with my cousin’s Beverly and Vivian Hall. They never hot scared, but I did, I was a bit younger. This was in the late 1930’s and up until 1945. I was born in 1934, in Granite City, Saint ELizabeth Hospital. Please e-mail me if you have some more picutre’s, I would love to see them.

BlueDevilMN on September 3, 2006 at 11:15 am

Gosh, I have so many fond memories of this place. I saw most movies from my childhood here and, later, at the Nameoki Cinema. I do believe it was likely the first movie theatre I’d ever been to; I can remember being carried into the Washington for a screening of “Deliverance,” and I really kicked up a fuss because I was frightened by the movie’s poster art.

Later I was there for “Jaws” and “Halloween,” and I remember begging my mother to let me see “The Omen” (which she refused). If we were downtown shopping, we always had to walk by so that I could see the movie posters and lobby cards. All the Disney movies I ever saw in a theatre were screened here. (I am guessing that the Washington had exclusive screening rights to Disney films.)

I remember the Saturday afternoon contests, though I never won anything. I also remember going to see a Christian-themed movie called “Time to Run,” where a pastor was in attendance; he sermonized after the movie was over and invited kids down to the front to be saved. My sister was one who took him up on it.

One thing that isn’t part of my Washington memories is sitting in the balcony. It was always roped off and closed whenever I was there.

I sure wish I could see some pictures of the place. So many happy memories…

topwaterfly on October 4, 2005 at 1:13 pm

Yah, that was my growing up theater(the second theater). They would rarely let us go up to the balcony and it was so cool up there. I sure miss the old huge, open theaters and wish they would stop tearing them down. Many, many fond memories and would love to see more pics. I couldn’t access most of the ones posted here. Anyway, thanks for the memories guys and I’ll be checking back.

RickFowler on November 12, 2004 at 2:22 pm

If you can send any photos of the Washington to me, I would be glad to put them on a website for all to see. E-mail me at and I can post these pretty easily. I would love to see the old photos of a place I only have limited memories of. I seen the very first Haloween there, around 1978 and a handful of others, but was too young to really appreciate the Washington.

Rick Fowler

sdoerr on September 6, 2004 at 6:54 pm

feel free to send them to me Charles,

thegoodoledays on August 28, 2004 at 10:45 pm

If anyone else has fond memories of this theatre, please let me know.

thegoodoledays on August 28, 2004 at 10:23 pm

The Washington Theatre was beautiful! My memories of this theatre are wonderful. The outside was made of brick, with a ticket box out front. The inside was marble, it had a concession stand approximately 15 feet long, it was all glass. There were huge pillars in the parlor, these pillars where surrounded by red velvet seating, going around the base of the pillars.
There was a balcony, and a stage, on stage every week, they gave away a guitar, this was done by drawing a ticket stub. The person holding the matching other half of the ticket won the guitar.

I always hoped to win, but never did.
They also, candy machines in the parlor.
The seats where velvet.

It seems so much of a waste, to demolish something so wonderful.
Our city has demolished some beautiful old buildings.
How sad!