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Documentation

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Varsity Theatre (85-00961)

2410 Lincoln Way
Ames IA 50010

History and Architecture

Construction date

1938

Historic function(s)

Recreation and culture/theater/movie theater

Current function(s)

Recreation and culture/theater/movie theater

Architectural classification(s)

Roof form: flat

Architect(s)

Wetherell and Harrison, Des Moines, IA

Builder(s)

Kucharo Construction

Evaluation Under National Register Criteria

National Register status

Not listed

Narrative(s)

The secondary façade siding prevents this building from conveying its historic entertainment associations. If the siding were removed and the historic materials found to be intact underneath, the building could be reevaluated for potential eligibility.

This one-story building has three façade bays, defined by a central window flanked by two double-leaf entrance doors. Secondary wood siding conceals the historic Modern Movement façade (see historic photographs). A non-historic marquee extends the full width of the facade. Two movie theater entrances flank the centered ticket window on the first floor. Movie poster display windows flank the entrances.

The 1920 Sanborn map indicates an empty lot at the site of the current theater. A.L. Champlin, a local business man and developer, built the Varsity Theater in 1938. Champlin chose Kucharo Construction of Des Moines to construct the theater, with the Palmer Plumbing Company as the plumbing contractor and the Best Electric Company as the electrical contractor. The theater construction costs totaled $45,000. Wetherhall and Harrison, architects for the Collegian Theater in downtown Ames, also designed the Varsity Theater. Joe V. Gerbrach, manager of the Ames, The Collegian, and the Ranch Drive-In, managed the 600-seat, air-conditioned Varsity Theater for the Ames Theatre company. The Varsity Theater continues to be owned by the Champlin family, who has recently closed the theater. The Ames Historical Society holds several photographs if this theater.