Empress Theatre - Penticton, BC
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member T0SHEA
N 49° 30.054 W 119° 35.552
11U E 312293 N 5486372
Quick Description: Originally the Empire Theatre, then the Empress Theatre, then Larsen's Tire Warehouse, this building has reclaimed some of its lost status with the arrival of an art gallery in 2007.
Location: British Columbia, Canada
Date Posted: 10/10/2021 2:27:37 PM
Waymark Code: WM153R2
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member bluesnote
Views: 0

Long Description:
PIC Built in 1912 as the as the Empire Theatre, it opened to a sold-out crowd on January 8th, 1913. With seating for 540 entertainment seekers, this remained the Empire Theatre until August 1, 1918, when it became the Empress Theatre.

Designed by A. F. Pelton, one of Penticton's most important early architects, the building was considered revolutionary for its use of poured concrete in its structure, one of the first buildings in Penticton to use the technique.

Renovated about 1930 to accommodate 'talkies', the theatre staged movies, opera, theatre, and public events until a newer theatre on Main Street undertook that role in 1936. Long gone are the Romanesque archway and the large Empress Theatre neon sign, but the Empress Theatre lettering on the façade, once stuccoed over, again graces the building.

Since November 2007 the old theatre has been home to the Lloyd Gallery, founded in 1979 on Main Street. In June of 2007 the Lloyd Gallery suffered a major fire and the complete loss of their Main Street gallery, moving into the old Empress Theatre building, previously a tire warehouse, in November of that year.

Empress Theatre
Description of Historic Place:
The Empress Theatre, now the home of Larsen's Tire Warehouse, is a two-storey, flat-roofed concrete building. Concrete pilasters frame the entrance front, and eight small rectangular windows surmount the second storey facing Front Street in Penticton, British Columbia.

Heritage Value:
The Empress Theatre is valued for its original function as the Empire Theatre, which was an integral part of the historic Front Street area, reflecting its rise and fall as a commercial area. Front Street had its origins in the early days of Penticton's settlement when it was the main business street accessed by passengers disembarking the paddle-wheelers. The construction of the theatre represents the pre-World War I building boom in Penticton when, during a two year period, a handful of downtown buildings were constructed of concrete for the first time. The materials used demonstrate the confidence of the builders in Penticton's emerging economy as the city was developing into a major regional transportation hub.

The theatre has social value for its role in the early cultural life of Penticton. It seated 540 and opened with a sold-out crowd on January 8th, 1913. The lifespan of the theatre, as both the Empire and the Empress Theatres, included the period of vaudeville, silent movies and, with the advent of movie chains, it became part of the Paramount Pictures Berry circuit as the Empress Theatre starting August 1, 1918. When 'talkies', were introduced around 1930 the theatre was renovated. It was used for movies, opera, theatre, and public events until 1936 when its business was usurped by a theatre on Main Street. It then fell into disrepair and was used as a tire warehouse for many decades, thus reflecting the change in location of the business community in Penticton from Front Street to Main Street.

The Empress Theatre is also valued for its association with two key people in Penticton's development, builder C.A.C. Steward and architect A. F. Pelton. C.A.C. Steward was a very early south Okanagan resident residing in Fairview prior to moving to Penticton, and was involved in numerous entertainment and cultural businesses. His furniture store housed Steward's Hall or the Opera House on its second floor, and he also owned Penticton's previous movie theater, the Dreamland. He was responsible for providing Penticton with a range of events in all three venues which illustrated North American trends in the entertainment and motion picture industry spanning the first three decades of the 20th century.

The association with one of Penticton's most important early architects, A. F. Pelton is also notable. The use of poured-in-place concrete for its construction rather than wood, concrete blocks, or bricks was described as "revolutionary" in the 1912 Penticton Herald. The architecture, described at the time of construction as 'Roman Doric', with a Romanesque archway and Doric columns was typical of the eclectic classical and fantastic designs of early North American movie theatres. This Romanesque entranceway was altered in 1930 to a recessed entrance with double doors. In recent years the entrance has been removed to create a flat plate glass front, and the 'Empress Theatre' sign has been plastered over.

Character-Defining Elements:
Key elements that define the heritage character of the Empress Theatre include its:
  • association with early North American theatre architecture
  • early use of poured in place concrete construction
  • central location in the Front Street Heritage Conservation Area
  • classical architectural elements, including pilasters and eight symmetrical second storey windows
  • association with early cultural events in Penticton
  • interior ceiling moldings and painted frescos
    From Historic Places Canada
Photo goes Here
Official Heritage Registry: [Web Link]

18 Front Street
Penticton, BC
V2A 1H7

Heritage Registry Page Number: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
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