Architecture – Art Deco Buildings – Anchorage 4th Avenue Theatre

Anchorage 4th Avenue Theatre was completed in 1947 and is one of the beautiful Art Deco buildings still in existence. The building was also known as Lathrop Building, named after Cap Lathrop – Alaskan businessman, industrialist and local politician at one point. Cap Lathrop set up several theatres across Alaska including the opulent 4th Avenue Theatre.

The architect behind the design was B. Marcus Priteca, known for a series of theatres he created across western United States and Canada for Greek American impresario Alexander Pantages

The 4th Avenue Theatre might be one of the last great theatres built in the Arc Deco style. The style first appeared right before World War 1 in France, rising to full glory in the roaring 1920s. The Great Depression of 1930s toned the style down to what is known as Streamline Modern. By the beginning of the World War II the dominance of the Art Deco came to an end, replaced by modernism and international styles. Thus the opening of the 4th Avenue Theatre in 1947 makes it one of the last, if not the last, Art Deco buildings.

The interior of the fabulous Lathrop Building was designed, created, and installed by world-class muralists
A.B. Heinsbergen and his protégé, Frank Bouman.

(Source: library of Congress). One of the interior murals.

Gold leaf panel with Alaska wildlife

Panel details (Source: the Library of Congress)

The building itself was a complex, besides the theatre containing a restaurant on the side, Lathrop’s radio and television stations, and apartments added at the top in 1959-1960.

On October 5th, 1982 the Theatre was added to the National Register of the Historic Places.

Mount Denali mural (Source: the Library of Congress)

The Theatre finally closed its doors in mid-1980s, unable to compete with the chain theatres and growing Malls and strip developments. 

For a brief moment in 1991 the doors were opened again to operate as a tourist attraction and event space, after a local businessman purchased and renovated the building. However, the second chance did not last long for the Theatre. The new owner went bankrupt and lost the building to foreclosures.

In 2009 an investment firm from California bought out the building. In 2016 new owners tried to obtained demolition permit, but thankfully were denied.

At the present moment, Friends of the 4th Avenue Theatre (not associated with any particular group or organization) is the only movement, albeit without any funds to spare, that advocates for the restoration and the preservation of the building in accordance with the policy and terms of the Alaska Historic Preservation Act.

Interior of the 4th Avenue Theatre (Source: the Library of Congress)