Modernistic Architecture in Rock Island, Part 4, Fort Armstrong Theatre
The Rock Island Water Pollution Control Plant was the focus of last week’s survey. Today, Stacey and I looked at a palace of amusement and entertainment—the ornate Fort Armstrong Theatre, which opened in early 1921. The building is thus the oldest of those classed as modernistic, preceding the sewer plant by almost 20 years, and its style is far more ornate, containing many elaborate decorative elements. It shares with some other modernistic buildings a curved corner.
The main coverings of the Art Deco–style building are Indian red brick and multicolored terra cotta. Among the decorations are an Indian chief, birds, lions, and snakes, reflecting the early history of the area.
The building was built specifically for the showing of films. The auditorium originally seated 1,800. The building in now known as Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, and it seats about 350 people for theater productions and other performance events. The building has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980 (Rock Island Preservation Commission, 1997).