Empire Theatre

106 W. Water Street,
Decorah, IA 52101

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Additional Info

Functions: Fraternal Hall

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Empire Theatre

Located four doors west of the Winnesheik Hotel, the Empire Theatre’s first advertisement appeared in the Decorah Public Opinion on May 29, 1907, with the film “Daniel Boone”. The building was listed on Sanborn Maps 1902 as a Masonic Hall and 1914 as Picture Theatre.

On July 2, 1913, it was reported H.A. Wolfgram of the Empire Theatre was making arrangements to build an open-air theatre. The 500-seat Airdome on W. Water Street opened July 16 with the Empire Theatre being closed during the summer while the Airdome was open.

On September 10, 1913, the news reported H.V. Holcomb of Kansas City had purchased the theatre from H.A. Wofgram.

In October 1914 ownership was assumed by. L.L. Dolson who arrived from Sac City. The Decorah Republican reported the closing January 18, 1915, because the competition was too strong to overcome and there were unexplained legal entanglements with the equipment.

The Masons symbols remain on the building occupied today by H&R Block.

Contributed by Ron Pierce

Recent comments (view all 1 comments)

SethG on August 4, 2023 at 10:57 am

Original structure from 1882, remodeled sometime between 1894 and 1913 (almost certainly closer to 1910). The Barthell building is two doors west, and was never owned by the Masons. The last few sentences are very confusing, as they make it seem that the masons moved here from elsewhere, when this building was constructed for them. I cannot find the Airdome on the 1914 map, but there are some vacant areas on W Water close to downtown where it might have operated.

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