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Mount Ayr Record-News
Mount Ayr, Ringgold County, Iowa
Thursday, October 08, 2015, Page 9

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By Mike Avitt

This week's photo again comes from the Orr Fisher collection and it is another beauty! This is the best picture I've ever seen of the Princess Theater in its early days. A heavily cropped version of this photo appears on page 83 of the Mount Ayr centennial book.

I don't have any information about who this group is or why they're assembled, but I can ramble on about other things in the picture, such as the Mount Ayr City Hall to the left of the Princess Theater. It was built in 1918. The rounded corner of the building we see today was created in 1940 when the hall was remodeled. At the same time this was being done, the Mount Ayr Fire Department, next door to the south, was given a concrete floor. The work was completed by September 1940. Hopefully, you can see the fire alarm siren on top of city hall behind the lamp post.

City Hall today

The Princess Theater started out as the Star Theater on Depot (Taylor) Street. The January 6, 1914 Record-News announces the sale of the Star Theater to L. P. Todd from W. E. Mack. Six months later, Todd brings the news that he is moving the theater to the southeast corner of the square and C. R. Rusk and his workmen begin to remodel the building at 101 W. Monroe. The picture show shown at the new location was September 9, 1914.

In March 1916, L. P. Todd sold the business to F. H. Mairs. It was Mr. Mairs who extended the building southward and added up-to-date equipment. In April 1918, Mr. Mairs traded the Princess Theater to Homer Foster for a farm. Homer Foster was the father of Holland Foster, Orr Fisher's life-long artist friend.

The building to the right of the Princess Theater is Ezra McMaster's Loan & Real Estate Office. When Citizens Bank failed in January 1904, its successor, Iowa State Bank, opened in the McMaster business office on March 4, 1904. Later that year, Iowa State Bank moved to the former location of Citizens Bank at 100 S. Taylor. Today, the building is occupied by the William H. French Agency.

Ezra McMaster has another claim to fame. It was his house at 205 W. Monroe that was converted into a funeral home by T. S. Rhoades, father of Claire Rhoades. Open House was held September 26, 27, and 28, 1930. The elder Rhoades formerly had his funeral parlor on the west side of the square.

I briefly looked into some Record-News newspapers trying to find why a group of men would gather on the southeast corner of the square, on an obviously very cold day, and I didn't find anything. My scanner wasn't big enough to capture a car facing the camera on the extreme left of the photo but the back of the picture does indicate the man with the cane is Orr Fisher's father James. There is also a barely visible arrow pointing to the (leaning) man positioned above the crowd between the lamp post and the Princess Theater. I believe this to be Orr Fisher. If you have seen Orr's photos, and I've seen most of them, you know he enjoyed being photographed.

We'll do some more Orr Fisher pictures when I get time to look up some information, but I think I'll answer some queries in the next article. I got a question about a topic I've been meaning to write about so we'll look at that question and a couple of others.

Princess Theatre, ca. 1960's

Photographs courtesy of Mount Ayr Record-News, Mount Ayr Depot Museum, Mike Avitt & Sharon R. Becker
Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, October of 2015

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