History and Architecture

Building Information

The Hardacre building is significant to the period of its renovation in 1948 and retains the key character-defining features of its property type and clearly conveys its significant historic entertainment associations. It is a rare surviving example of the conversion of an early twentieth century opera house into a movie theater that was in continuous operation until August 2013 and retaining historic architectural integrity, including changes over time which have acquired significance. Its associations with the I.O.O.F. fraternal group is representative of a sub-type of opera theater/movie theater community buildings in Iowa. The initial date of construction, conversion dates and post-World War II technical renovations reflect associations with historic sub-contexts: “Rise of the Motion Picture: 1900 -1930,” “State-wide Impact of Era of Centralization and Domination of Movie Theater Chains, 1920-1948,” “Iowa Movie Theaters in the Post-World War II Period and Era of Suburbanization 1946-1975 and “Evolution of Movie Theater Design, 1900-1975 in Iowa.

This two-story building has five façade bays, defined by full-height projecting brick pilasters. Contrasting white terra cotta trims the pilasters, the round arch second-story windows, and forms a projecting cornice. The movie theater entrance is centered in the first story, flanked on each side by a storefront with display windows. The recessed theater entrance features a pressed metal ceiling, poster display windows on the side walls, and a projecting ticket booth flanked by double-leaf full-light entrance doors. The interior includes the following spaces and features: the entrance lobby space with non-historic wall and ceiling finishes (on-site investigation revealed historic smooth plaster with decorative painting finishes on the original ceiling above); the narrow second lobby with open straight stairs to the balcony and two long and narrow bathrooms at each end; the open auditorium with slanted floor and 264 seats arranged with two aisles; the historic balcony containing an additional 132 seats; a replacement stage at the site of the original stage; the historic auditorium wall sconces and decorative wall painting with a floral/vine motif; the movie theater screen and curtain; raised fly loft area behind screen from the original opera house era; and small dressing rooms below the stage in the basement. Of note is the historic 1940s clock mounted on the left stage wall with neon lighting around the circular face.

Originally opened as an opera house, the building converted to a movie theater in 1919. The original constructed was funded by the estate of the late Jacob Hardacre, an active I.O.O.F. member, who stipulated that the building be used in part for I.O.O.F. functions. The building appears on 1928 Sanborn Map. In 1936, it received a new “washed-air air-conditioning system, the equipment of which is still intact within the building. In 1940, another theater in town, the Toy Theater, was also operating. In December 1948, under the management of John Snyder, the building underwent a significant renovation that included a new marquee (erected by Iowa Neon Sign Company of Des Moines) and remodeling of the interior. At this time, the interior decorating was contracted to Dahlstrom & Weignbringer of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The I.O.O.F. sold the building in 1978 to Louie and Virginia Cook. Seating capacity is 400 and it continues to operate as a movie theater, with an annual summer film festival.

 

Information courtesy of www.preservationiowa.org