Return to PSTOS Home Page
Welcome to PSTOS

American (Beck, Metropolitan) Theatre
Bellingham, Washington
1310 Cornwall (earlier name: Dock Street) between Holly and Magnolia
 
Organ installation timeframes:

  • 1st organ: 2/7 Wurlitzer, 1915-1919
  • 2nd organ: 2/9 Robert Morton, 1919-1959
     
    Back to the Washington Original Theatre Installations page

    Click for a larger version of this image (19K)
    American Theatre Robert Morton organ, c.1920. Chester Walton on left. Identity of individual on right is unknown. Photo courtesy Jeff Fox.
     
    According to facts provided by the Whatcom Museum, Beck's Theatre was built by Jacob Beck, a German immigrant and Whatcom area developer. The theater was designed in Louis XIV style and built of Chuckanut sandstone at a cost of $150,000. Total seating capacity was 2,200. Opening night was December 13, 1902 and the comic opera "Foxy Quiller" was presented.
     
    Click for a larger version of this image (216K)
    Frank P. Hayes at the console, date unknown. Photo courtesy Jeff Fox.
     

    c.1902-1906
     
    According to Jeff Fox, the theatre operated as Beck's from 1902-1914, the Metropolitan 1914-1916, and then American from 1916 until it was demolished in the Spring of 1959.
     
    Click for a larger version of this image (73K)
    c.1906
     
    Click for a larger version of this image (284K)
    Chester Walton at the Morton accompanying a play, title unknown. Photo courtesy Jeff Fox
     
    In the photo above, note the inset on the proscenium arch. According to Jeff Fox, this was added in 1916 when the theatre became a photo-play house and the name changed to American. Its purpose was to frame the screen but it narrowed the opening for live shows. The clocks were most likely added at this time as well. The grand piano is a Baldwin.
     

    Beck's Theatre program, c.1908. Courtesy Jeff Fox
     

    Theatre program, Dec. 18, 1910

    June 14, 1911
     

    Postcard ad for Beck's Theatre, 1911
     
    Jacob Beck died in 1914, and in 1915, the upper balcony was removed and replaced with a film projection booth. The theatre was renamed the American.
     
    The American Theatre had two different theatre organs:

  • In 1915, a 2/7 Wurlitzer, Style 3 (opus 69)
  • In 1919, a 2/9 Robert Morton
     

    Beck's Theatre program for the week of May 4, 1919. Courtesy Jeff Fox. According to Jeff, "Chester E. Walton was organist and Charles Bowen was assistant organist at this time. Bowen had a piano studio in the Fine Arts Bldg. on East Holly Street in Bellingham."
     
    Click for a larger version of this image (80K)
    American Theatre, c.1921. Photo by J. W. Sandison, courtesy Whatcom Museum
     
    Click for a larger version of this image (37K)
    The Eternal Flame, 1922
    Click for a larger version of this image (33K)
    Theatre lobby, date unknown
     
    Click for a larger version of this image (29K)
    The Storm, 1922
    Click for a larger version of this image (58K)
    The Traveling Salesman, 1921
     
    Photos by J. W. Sandison, courtesy Whatcom Museum.
     

     

    Complimentary pass coupon, 1935. Courtesy Jeff Fox.
     
    Click for a larger version of this image (59K)
    Looking North on Cornwall Ave. American Theatre on left, c.1940s
     

    c.1940s
     
    The Balcom & Vaughan opus lists indicates that Wurlitzer opus 69 went to Larry Langevin of Yakima in the 1950's. Its history immediately after the theatre is unknown.

    The Robert-Morton organ was removed to storage. Some ranks such as the Muted Horn were taken but the great majority of the instrument went to a Lutheran church in Sedro Woolley where it remained until about 1976. The following ad appeared in the Bellingham Herald, November 1974.
     

    Bellingham Herald, November 5, 1974. Courtesy Jeff Fox
     
    The instrument was purchased by Bill Carson and later split up for parts. The 5HP blower is now owned by Russ & Jo Ann Evans of Kenmore, Washington.
     
    The American Theatre building was sold by the Beck family for a price barely more than the original cost. The building was demolished in the Spring of 1959 to make way for the new J.C. Penney and Woolworth stores.
     

    A glimpse of the American Theatre on right, c.1950s
     
    Click for a larger version of this image (498K)
    American Theatre after closing, c.1958. Photo by Galen Biery, courtesy Jeff Fox
     


    Click for a larger version of this image (618K)
    Demolition in progress, Spring 1959. Photo by Galen Biery, taken from inside the adjacent Bellingham National Bank building after the hotel and theatre lobby had already been removed. Courtesy Jeff Fox.
     
    According to Jeff Fox, the opening to the right of the stage is one of the former box seats, walled off when the theatre converted to a photo-play house in 1916. The chambers for the Robert Morton organ were in back of the grille located very high in the theatre above the former box seat.
     

    Click for a larger version of this image (458K)
    Photo by Galen Biery, taken from Horn's Dept. Store. The hotel and the theatre's lobby are gone and the site cleared to make way for the auditorium's demolition. Note the different wallpaper designs on the wall. These are from the rooms of the American Hotel. Courtesy Jeff Fox.


    About this site© PSTOS, 1998-2014