Avon Theatre

869 Main Street,
Dubuque, IA 52001

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Additional Info

Architects: Thomas T. Carkeek

Previous Names: Princess Theatre

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Avon Theatre 1952. Photo courtesy of Americar The Beautiful FB page.

The Princess Theatre was first located on Court Street and opened in 1908. The operation was moved to its Main Street location on September 13, 1909, still known as the Princess Theatre. On September 1, 1928 it was renamed Avon Theatre, it had seating for 550. The theatre closed on February 3, 1957 and was demolished in April 1957.

Contributed by Chuck

Recent comments (view all 10 comments)

kencmcintyre on January 9, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Stella and James Yiannias in 1942:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 18, 2009 at 4:13 pm

The February 16, 1957, issue of Boxoffice Magazine announced that Dubuque’s Avon Theatre had closed, and that demolition of the building would commence on April 1, to make way for a new J.C. Penney store.

The house was built in 1908 by William Bradley, and was opened as the Princess Theatre. After operating it for a year, Bradley leased the house to Harvey Fulton of the Standard Amusements Company. In 1916 it was taken over by James Yiannias, who operated it until it closed. In its final year, the Avon was open only three days a week. The Boxoffice article does not give the year in which the name was changed from Princess to Avon.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2011 at 3:21 pm

The Encyclopedia Dubuque says that the Princess Theatre was renamed the Avon Theatre in August, 1928. The web page has a drawing of the theater.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 3, 2011 at 4:28 pm

This page at Encyclopedia Dubuque says that the architect of the Princess Theatre was Thomas T. Carkeek. It, too, says that the theater was renamed the Avon in 1928, but it also displays a complimentary season pass to the Princess Theatre dated 1933.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on February 25, 2023 at 1:38 pm

There was an earlier Princess Theatre in Dubuque, located on Court Street, which was mentioned in the May 29, 1909 issue of Moving Picture World.

SethG on September 27, 2023 at 8:35 am

This theater cannot have been built in 1908, as the February 1909 Sanborn still shows the older buildings. If it didn’t open until September 1909, a 1908 construction date doesn’t make much sense.

Rainbow Angels Ensemble
Rainbow Angels Ensemble on September 27, 2023 at 1:34 pm

The last film was Elvis in love me tender

SethG on September 27, 2023 at 1:50 pm

It’s possible that there was an earlier Princess, but there is no such thing as Court St, and there never has been. There are a few ‘such-and-such Courts’, but I wonder if the existence of the prior Princess isn’t fictitious.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on September 27, 2023 at 9:02 pm

The 1957 Boxoffice article about the closure and demolition of the Avon obviously got the year of its construction wrong. As they were writing about an event almost half a century after it happened, that’s a bit surprising. Boxoffice usually got stuff wrong much sooner.

As for the Princess being on Court Street, the exact wording of the 1909 MPW item datelined Dubuque, Ia. was “M. H. Cooley, of Herscher, has bought a part interest in the Princess Theater, on Court Street.” It is a bit ambiguous, now that I see it again. Although datelined Dubuque, the item could have been referring to a Princess Theatre in a place called Herscher. The problem with that is that there is no place in Iowa called Herscher. There is one in Illinois, but it’s nowhere near Dubuque, and is quite tiny, and also lacks a Court Street.

I then thought it might be about East Dubuque, Illinois, but alas, again there is a paucity of streets called Court. I tried searching for Mr. M. H. Cooley, but as far as Google can determine, this was his only appearance in a theater industry trade journal. With so many dead ends, and so much evidence against its existence, I think we can safely declare Dubuque’s Court Street Princess Theatre of 1908 a phantom.

I now suspect Mr. Cooley of having been perpetrating some sort of con, planting a fake story about buying a part interest in a non-existent theater, then leaving a trail of depleted purses across Iowa as he sold shares of his share at bargain prices due to some fake personal emergency. Shame on you, Mr. Cooley! Who did you think you were, Harold Hill?

SethG on September 28, 2023 at 5:17 am

I really don’t know what to make of it. I was sure it hadn’t come from nowhere. The courthouse is at the corner of Central (then known as Clay) and E 7th. The front faces Central, but Court streets sometimes approach the courthouse at other angles. It’s just possible it was a colloquial reference to that part of Central or 7th. It was also sort of a marginal neighborhood, with lots of industry and hotels close to the railroad. Searching the map wasn’t useless, as I did turn up an airdome. I’ll add a listing for that.

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