AKA: Beck Theater, Bellingham, WA; American Theatre, Bellingham, WA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Houghton, Edwin W., Architect (firm); Edwin Walker Houghton (architect)

Dates: constructed 1900-1902, demolished 1959

view all images ( of 2 shown)

1310 Cornwall Avenue
Bellingham, WA

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map
Google Streetview (new tab)
click to view google map
Beck's Theatre was located on 1310 Dock Street (later renamed Cornwall Avenue).

Building History

Seattle architect Edwin Walker Houghton (1856-1927) designed the Beck Theatre, that opened on 12/13/1902. He created the $150,000 venue for Jacob Beck (born c. 1856) a German immigrant who settled in PA where he first became a coal miner c. 1870. He relocated to Bellingham by 1882, and became wealthy through real estate purchases. This elegant and costly theatre reflected Beck's aspirations for Bellingham, which had a population of only 11,062 in 1900, yet his theatre could seat a huge audience, about 2,200 people. Hougton gave the theatre a Georgian Revival front facade, with its first floor voussoirs composed of local Chuckanut sandstone, an expensive facing material. (The building's upper stories were clad in brick.) It took Beck two years to get his pet project built, which prospered for a time hosting dramatic and musical presentations, but, by 1910, needed to accommodate vaudeville to bring in crowds. The performance hall was known as the "Beck Theatre" from 1902 until 1914. It was renamed the "Metropolitan Theatre" for two years, 1914-1916. When the theatre's programming switched to primarily motion pictures in 1916, it was rechristened the "American Theatre." In 1919, the theatre contracted to show Paramount and Artcraft motion pictures.

The American remained a moviehouse until it closed in 1958. The Beck Family sold the property to enable the construction of J.C. Penney and F.W. Woolworth department stores.

The theatre's facade had a decidely English architectural character, skillfully done by the English-born architect, Hougton.

Building Notes

In 1935, Evergreen State Theatres managed the American Theatre.

Roof trusses were composed of wood for the Beck Theatre.


Theatre historian Eric L. Flom noted alterations that occurred to the Beck Theatre in 1915: "By 1913, the Beck Theater had fallen on hard times, and was presenting small-time vaudeville productions. In 1915, the venue underwent a change when the entire upper balcony was removed and a projection booth installed, whereupon the theater began showing motion pictures as its main attraction. It was at that time that the house was renamed the American." (See Eric L. Flom, HistoryLink.org, "Beck Theater in Bellingham opens on December 13, 1902," accessed 06/08/2018.)


The Beck Theatre was razed in 1959.

PCAD id: 13391