From the Library Archives: The Judith Theater by Nancy Watts

The Judith Theater at 219 W. Main was built in 1914.

“The Bank of Fergus County provided Lewistown with the Judith Theater ‘as a place of amusement, not as a financial investment’ …“Moving pictures, vaudeville shows, political rallies, concerts and various benefit shows entertained, provoked and delighted Central Montana audiences” (Montana Historical and Architectural    Inventory, site #147-Sievert).

“The directors of the Bank of Fergus County yesterday let the contract for the erection of the new theater building, to go up on the site of the Wright block on Main Street, adjoining the bank, to the Piper Construction company…The cost will be about $80,000…..The plans for the theater were prepared by Link and Haire, the design being by Wellinton Smith, the local manager, who has devoted much time to the study of this proposition. The theater will have a frontage on Main Street of 70 feet and will extend back 147 feet. All the walls will be of reinforced concrete and concrete will be used even in the decorations and electrical fixtures. The front will be of terra cotta and brick and will make a very handsome appearance. The stage will be 32 x 70, which is ten feet wider than the standard stage, and will be of ample height. It will be provided with an asbestos curtain and the best known mechanical ventilating system is provided for. It will have a seating capacity of 700 without crowding. The work of raising the Wright block will begin immediately and the Piper Construction company will have the theater ready for use by Oct 1.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” May 5, 1914).

“The Piper Construction company yesterday laid the temporary ground floor at the Judith Theater building, adjoining the Bank of Fergus County. The new structure will furnish a Main Street entrance to the upper floor of the Bank of Fergus County building.” (unknown).“F. Mark, representative of the Twin City Scenic company …sold to the Judith Theater company the stage properties and scenery for the new house.” (“Fergus County Democrat,” August 27, 1914).

“Plans are now underway for an elaborate society vaudeville to be given under the auspices of Saint James Church on Christmas night in the new Judith Theater…” (“Fergus County Democrat,” November 12, 1914).

“When the Judith Theatre was formally dedicated along in 1914, the late Austin W. Warr, head of the company that erected it and owned it, said, “The man who conceived the plan and to whom the sole credit is due, if any, is Albert Heinecke. After he had worked it all out in his own mind, he presented it to me, he called upon me daily to keep up my own interest and to emphasize his views and desires.  It has been constructed primarily for showing moving pictures, but has been equipped with a standard stage and all the equipment for first class dramatic productions …..the ladies orchestra has just resumed work at the Judith and is one of the very popular features there,” (December 19, 1920).

“The Judith was operated by Trepp and Heinecke…. it had a huge loft over the stage area where risers, back drops, curtains and later moving picture screens could be hoisted and stored. It had an orchestra pit and box seats on either side of the stage. It had main floor seating as well as a lower and upper balcony. It also had loges on either side of the theater, just below the lower balcony with seats running along their full lengths. The Judith was equipped with a pipe organ and a piano in the pit. The pipes were placed above the box seats. (Dissly, “History of Lewistown,” page 152).

The Judith Theater at 219 W. Main was built in 1914, it had a capacity of 700 people.
This is the interior of the Judith Theater.

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