State (Towne) Theater

State Theater.

The State Theater, located at 508 Northern Pacific Avenue, opened on November 28, 1921. The theater was started by W. J. Hawk. Hawk, who arrived in Dakota Territory in 1879, purchased the Liberty Theater in April 1909 when he moved to Fargo. In 1920 her purchased the building that would become the State Theater, from the Advance Rumley Company. Construction of the $250,000 theater began in March 1921. With a seating capacity of 1,350, the theater was the largest in North Dakota at the time. Downstairs seating was about 650, box seats accommodated another 100, and there were 600 seats in the balcony. The theater had an orchestra pit and a Robert Morton pipe organ. The theater also had a domed star-light ceiling with blinking lights and cottony clouds that seemed to float across the sky.

The first moving picture shown at the theater was The Wonderful Thing starring Norma Talmadge.

W.C. Clavier, Hawk's business associate, owned a "picture house" in Marshfield, Wisconsin before moving to Fargo in 1909. He was a projectionist at Fargo's Palm Theater. He persuaded Hawk to reopen the Savoy Theater as a five-cent picture house. Clavier was operating manager of the State and also supervised the management of the Liberty Theater (as the Savoy became known after remodeling in 1917).

Hawk and Clavier operated the theater until they sold it in 1929 to the Paramount Publix Theater Corporation. When Paramount was hit by hard times in 1932, the theater was purchased by Minnesota Amusement Corporation of Minneapolis.
In February 1951, the theater was bought by Gordon, Francis and Helmer Aamoth, and the theater name was changed to the Towne Theater. According to Francis Aamoth's daughter, "They wanted to call it the “Town” theatre, but the marquee was built to accommodate five letters, so they (laughingly, as I recall) decided to leave the “e” at the end. Their laughter was self-deprecating because they considered the spelling somewhat pretentious, but then they started to like it."

In 1962, the Dakota Amusement Co. purchased the Towne. The new owners were Ernest N. Peaslee and Frank Zeuh, of Stillwater, Minnesota. In 1973, the building was purchased by the First National Bank and Trust, who tore the building down for a parking lot.

The view above looks southwest from the corner of N.P. Avenue and Fifth Street.