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Documentation

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Ames Theatre (85-00962)

Also known as: American Theatre, Champlin Building

2420 Lincoln Way
Ames IA 50010

History and Architecture

Construction date

1919

Historic function(s)

Recreation and culture/theater/movie theater

Current function(s)

Recreation and culture/theater/movie theater

Architectural classification(s)

Roof form: flat

Evaluation Under National Register Criteria

National Register status

Not listed

Narrative(s)

This building does not retain sufficient integrity to clearly communicate its historic entertainment associations. The alterations to the first-story façade, alterations to the marquee, and replacement windows also prevent it from clearly conveying its commercial associations and it would not contribute to a surrounding commercial distinct.

This two-story building has six façade bays, defined by the single windows in the second story. Stone highlights the second-floor windowsills and heads. Decorative brick embellishes the cornice level with a diamond-shaped motif . A small square window and a sign panel with the letters, “A.L. CHAMPLIN”, are located above the center windows of the second floor. A non-historic marquee extends across the façade between the first and second floors. Non-historic red brick clads the first story facade. A metal, double-leaf movie theater entrance is centered in the first story, and is flanked by movie poster display windows. The interior includes the following spaces and features: the non-historic entrance foyer with non-historic wall and ceiling finishes and spatial arrangement; the auditorium with sloped floor, seating, and center aisle with non-historic finishes; the historic proscenium; the stage, enclosed as a conference room; the historic fly loft above the stage with the historic pulley system; and the historic projection booth with non-historic finishes, currently functioning as offices. The basement houses the historic orchestra pit and evidence of the historic sloped floor.

The 1920 Sanborn map indicates a motion picture theater with iron columns and 4” tile with a brick face. A.L. Champlin, a local business man and developer, built the American Theater in 1919 at a cost of approximately $40,000. The American Theater was the first theater in Campustown to be constructed after a heated debate between developers and college administrators, who feared that the theater would become a distraction to the students. In 1920, Gerbracht bought the theater and renamed it the Ames Theater. In 1927, Gerbracht partnered with A.H. Blank and Harry Wienberg of the Tri-State Theaters in Des Moines. The new partners remodeled the theater in 1928 to increase the capacity of the theater to seat 1,050 persons. The remodeled theater reopened as the New Ames, complete with a new balcony, mezzanine, lounging rooms, smoking rooms, and children’s den. Kingland Systems purchased the theater in 2007, and renovated the building to accommodate their offices.