For the first time since Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse opened in 1977, the exterior of the historic theater is getting a detailed restoration.

Last week, workers from Davenport-based E & H Restoration started securing the brick and mortar, and terra cotta of the 101-year-old building at 1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island.

Workers with E & H Restoration on a crane attending to the top of Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, Rock Island (photo by Jonathan Turner).

“We’ve done nothing with that since Denny bought the building in ’77,” Circa director of audience development Brett Hitchcock said Tuesday of owner/producer Denny Hitchcock. “This project has been in the works for some time.”

The work will take a couple months, including any brick and terra cotta replacement. Davenport-based Russell Construction also will be replacing the large second-floor windows, which are very old and have been leaking air, Brett Hitchcock said.

“They’re not energy-efficient,” he said. “We have to be mindful that the building is on the National Register. We’ll be careful in how we replace them. Russell will be working with the state, keeping the look of the building the same. That’s also a project that we’ve needed to do for quite some time.”

Securing the brick, mortar and terra cotta features on the exterior of the 101-year-old Circa ’21, May 10, 2022 (photo by Jonathan Turner).

Even though E & H is working with a tall crane, they’ve been very good in making sure tour buses and customers have access to the theater entrance, Hitchcock said.

Designed by the Rock Island firm of Cervin & Horn and the Chicago firm of Brawn & Ermling in 1919 and 1920, Circa (formerly the Fort Armstrong Theatre) is a three-story Art Deco-style building faced with Indian red brick and polychrome terra cotta.

The terra cotta was designed specifically for the theater by Rudolph Sandberg and produced by the Midland Terra Cotta Company of Chicago. The Fort Armstrong Theatre originally opened Jan. 19, 1921 at the height of the silent-movie era, with a seating capacity of 1,566.

For more information on the building, click HERE.