Grand Theatre

26 N. Sixth Street,
Keokuk, IA 52632

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Related Websites

Grand Theatre, Keokuk (Official)

Additional Info

Previously operated by: Frisina Amusement Company

Architects: Robin B. Carswell, Albert S. Owen, Charles H. Payson

Firms: Owen, Payson & Carswell

Functions: Live Performances, Special Events

Phone Numbers: Box Office: 319.524.1026

Nearby Theaters

Grand Theatre..Keokuk Iowa

The Grand Theatre was built in 1924. It was built on the site of a former Opera House which was also known as the Baker-Dodge Theatre. The Opera House/Baker-Dodge Theatre burned down on December 7, 1923. Opening night of the Grand Theatre was on Tuesday January 27, 1925, and had a seating capacity for 1,030.

In the 1940’s it is listed as being operated by the Frisina Amusement Co.

The Grand Theatre stopped showing movies and closed in the early-1980’s. In 1987, it was restored and is now used for live entertainment, conventions and other events.

Contributed by Chuck & Ken

Recent comments (view all 12 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

The photo currently on display on this page depicts the original Keokuk Opera House which was destroyed by a fire in 1923 and replaced by the Grand Theatre. The photos section has an image of the 1925 Grand Theatre, posted by Don Lewis, which would be a better choice to display on this page.

Although a couple of travel-oriented web sites and any number of link farms (and Wikipedia, not surprisingly) say that Mere F. Baker designed the Grand Theatre, this page at the Grand’s official web site says only that “[i]n a matter of a few days after the destruction Merle F. Baker, a leading businessman in Keokuk, was determined to rebuild the Grand Theatre as a community theatre continuing with vaudeville stage shows.” I’ve found no evidence anywhere else on the Internet that Baker was an architect. He was actually the Baker of Baker-Dodge Theatres, the company that operated the Grand and a number of other Keokuk movie houses.

This house actually opened as the New Grand Theatre. Baker-Dodge had been operating the old Keokuk Opera House under the name Grand Theatre at the time it was destroyed. Although I’ve been unable to discover the architect of the New Grand, the Keokuk Opera House was designed by Chicago theater architect Oscar Cobb prior to 1885.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 28, 2013 at 4:31 am

The February 26, 1921, issue of The American Contractor has a notice that a $35,000 house was to be built at Keokuk for M. F. Baker. This was probably Merle F. Baker. It was being designed by the Chicago firm of Tallmadge & Watson. I would expect that, if Baker had been an architect, he’d have designed his own house. It seems more likely than ever that Baker was merely the co-owner of the Grand Theatre, not its architect.

vinray89 on January 13, 2018 at 4:49 pm

I have to disagree with the comment above that states that the Grand closed in 1957. I can vividly remember going there in the 1970’s to watch movies like “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Jaws” among others, so I’m sure it didn’t close until sometime in the early 1980’s.

vinray89 on January 13, 2018 at 4:57 pm

Interesting article about some of the Baker family that had ties to the Grand theater and their thoughts about it’s restoration.

vinray89 on January 13, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Friday, December 7, 1923 KEOKUK’S 43 YEAR OLD OPERA HOUSE IS GUTTED IN EARLY MORNING BLAZE. About an hour after yesterday evenings last performance of Frank Craven’s comic tragedy “THE FIRST YEAR” at approximately 12:30 a.m. Keokuk’s 43 year old opera house, Known as THE GRAND since 1914, was gutted by a fire, which some believe may have been smoldering during the final act of the play. The Keokuk Opera House was constructed in 1880 at a cost of $30,000, at the time it was considered to be the most pretentious structure in Keokuk. This 60 x 68 foot building had an auditorium which could accommodate more than a thousand persons. The grand entrance was 20 feet wide and the stage was the largest in the Midwest. In 1914 The Baker-Dodge Theatre Company took over the opera house and renamed it The Grand Theatre, it continued the tradition of bringing the best in Musicals, Stage Plays and even the popular motion pictures of the times. Merle F. Baker, head of The Baker-Dodge company vows to rebuild The Grand.

dallasmovietheaters on June 22, 2022 at 6:07 pm

Agreed with Joe Vogel’s comment that Merle F. Baker was the circuit owner of the venue and not the building’s architect. It is likely that the Tallmadge & Watson plans of 1921 were rejected as the trade press lists the architectural plans of the new Grand Theatre to Owen, Payton & Carswell out of Kansas City circa 1922 and into 1923. Then when the building opened, Owen, Payton and Carswell were credited in news and trade reports as the venue’s architects. Mr. Baker likely approved the plans but had little to do with the actual creation of those plans.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 22, 2022 at 7:40 pm

dallasmovietheaters is undoubtedly right about the ultimate architects of the Grand Theatre, except that the second partner was named Payson, not Payton. Albert S. Owen, Charles H. Payson, and Robin B. Carswell also designed the Temple Theatre in Mount Pleasant, Iowa in 1923. Carswell left the firm by 1926 and was replaced by William Sayler. As Owen, Sayler & Payson the firm designed the 1926 Kansas City Masonic auditorium that last operated as the Lyric Theatre.

dallasmovietheaters on June 23, 2022 at 7:44 am

Sorry - the autocorrect got me on Payson’s last name.

50sSNIPES on May 26, 2024 at 5:48 am

The Grand Theatre actually closed as a movie house in the early-1980s, not 1957.

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