Bremer Theatre

107 E. Bremer Avenue,
Waverly, IA 50677

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Bremer Theatre

This theatre appears on the 1915 Sanborn, in an old two story brick commercial building, which was constructed in 1880 as the Bank of Waverly. At some point after 1905, the bank moved out and the theatre was opened by 1926.

As part of the conversion to a theatre, the building was nearly doubled in depth by a one story addition to the rear. It was renamed Bremer Theatre around 1938. The theatre remained in operation until 1959, when the building became a Sears store.

Like much of downtown, the building has been extremely poorly treated, although a very ugly 1969 remodel has been replaced by a tacky ‘country chic’ mess. The building is home to a promotions/silkscreening business.

Contributed by Seth Gaines

Recent comments (view all 5 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 16, 2023 at 1:48 am

I haven’t checked every year, but the FDY lists only the Palace at Waverly in 1926, 1928, 1929, 1936, and 1937. The house at 107 E. Bremer might have been dark, or maybe not even a theater, for many years.

In 1938 the FDY lists the Palace and a 305-seat house called the Bremer Theatre, which could have been this one. The only mention of the Bremer I’ve found in the trades is in the November 11, 1950 Boxoffice which said the house had suffered a fire “last Sunday” (which would have been November 5) and had been closed for repairs most of the week.

SethG on August 16, 2023 at 5:04 am

The NRHP listing, which seems meticulously researched, gave the end date. I thought it was odd that there was no name given for such a long tenure. They say it only had a few historical tenants - bank, theater, and Sears (which combined two buildings). There was new lighting/ceiling installed in 1948, which might show up in trade journals. Anyhow, I think you’ve got the name and capacity, and we know it was open as late as 1950.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 17, 2023 at 5:09 am

I didn’t phrase my earlier comment very well, so I think it’s been misunderstood. The Palace Theatre listed in the FDY’s starting in 1926 was the one across the street from this house, at 90 Bremer Avenue, built in 1925-26, now called the Waverly Palace Theatre. The Iowa State Historic Society’s Site Inventory Form for that block says that the new theater in that building was called the Palace by the newspapers while it was under construction, so there was plenty of time for the name to be sent to the FDY in time for the 1926 edition. That house was renamed the Waverly Theatre in 1937, noted in the October 4 issue of Film Daily that year.

What the absence of any other theater name than Palace from FDYs during the period 1926-1937 suggests is that when the Bremer opened in (probably) 1937, its building, despite having appeared on the 1915 Sanborn map with the notation “Moving Pictures,” had probably not been used as a theater at least since the Palace had opened across the street in 1926. I suspect that the theater space had simply been returned to retail use until someone converted it back into a theater in 1937.

As for the original name of the house during the period around 1915, the trade journals offer no clue aside from a mention in 1916 of an Opera House at Waverly, which hardly seems a likely name for a narrow storefront conversion such as this house appeared to be. None of the historic issues of the local newspapers are online, so we probably won’t be coming across any ads for it. I think we’ve reached an impasse, unless someone local manages to dig something up, or one of the newspapers gets digitized and put online.

SethG on August 17, 2023 at 5:55 am

Yeah, I knew that Palace aka couldn’t be right. I know where the Opera House was. I’ll add it. Do you know anything more about dates, etc. for that one?

SethG on August 17, 2023 at 5:57 am

There are Sanborns from the mid-20s and early 40s, but I can’t find them online. We need someone with an Iowa State ID, I think. That would help fill in the gaps.

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