Priteca, Benjamin Marcus

PRITECA, Benjamin Marcus (1889-1971), active in Seattle, Wash. and a prolific theatre architect credited with the design of more than one hundred and fifty theatre buildings in the United States and Canada. Born in Glasgow, Scotland on 23 December 1889, he attended classes at Heriot Watt College in Edinburgh while serving an apprenticeship with Rhoderic Cameron (1860-1928), a prominent local architect there. A travelling scholarship provided him with the opportunity to visit the United States, where he was drawn to the 1909 Exposition in Seattle, Wash. He found work there as draftsman and assistant to Edwin W. Houghton, and opened his own office in 1910 to design theatres for the company owned by Alexander Pantages. During the next two decades he was remarkably prolific and influential, and was credited with the design of The Coliseum Theatre in Seattle, considered the first 'movie palace' in the world, setting a trend in theatre designs created expressly to accommodate the new art form of motion pictures. The demand for his services grew, and he soon opened branch offices in Oakland, San Francisco, and in Los Angeles.

In Canada his best know work was the vast Pantages Theatre, Vancouver (1916; demol. 1967), designed in an eclectic French Renaissance style with an elaborate white terra cotta facade and a highly embellished interior hall seating 1,800 patrons. Priteca was also among the first to create mixed-use theatre buildings which combined the need for commercial office space with a public assembly hall. His plans for the Orpheum Theatre & Office Block in Seattle (1926-27), designed in collaboration with former Vancouver architect Frederick J. Peters, served as the model for his scheme for the Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver (1926-27), executed by the same team of Priteca & F.J. Peters. Priteca was elected as a Fellow of the American Inst. of Architects in 1951, and died in Seattle on 1 October 1971 (obituary Seattle Times, 3 Oct. 1971, F8; Richard E. Ritz, Architects of Oregon, 2002, 323; D. Luxton, Building The West: The Early Architects of British Columbia, 2003, 266, 269, illus., 515). A detailed biography and list of works by Priteca can be found in J.K.Ochsner, Shaping Seattle Architecture, 2014, 216-21, 377, and 405. An early photographic portrait of Priteca at the age of 22 yrs, accompanied by a biography of his early career, was published in the weekly construction journal called Pacific Builder & Engineer [Seattle], xii, 11 Nov. 1911, 324.

EDMONTON, ALTA., Pantages Theatre and commercial office block adjacent called The Brown Block, for Alexander Pantages, Jasper Avenue at 2nd Street, 1912-13 (Edmonton Daily Bulletin, 1 July 1912, 4, descrip.; Saskatoon Daily Star, 9 July 1912, 3, descrip.; Edmonton Journal, 13 May 1913, 7, illus. & descrip.)
VANCOUVER, B.C., Pantages Theatre, West Hastings Street, with 10 storey office & hotel building adjacent, designed in 1912, but not built until 1916 (The Sun [Vancouver], 9 Sept. 1912, 16, descrip.). See this project listed below under 1916-17.
(with George Northwood) WINNIPEG, MAN., Pantages Theatre, Market Avenue, 1913-14 (Manitoba Free Press [Winnipeg], 24 Jan. 1914, Theatrical Section, 1-4, illus. & descrip.; Winnipeg Tribune, 24 Jan. 1914, Section Two, pages 6 to 8, illus. & descrip.)
VANCOUVER, B.C., Pantages Theatre, West Hastings Street at Carrall Street, for Alexander Pantages, 1916-17; demol. 1967 (C.R., xxx, 16 Feb. 1916, 43; xxxi, 16 May 1917, 431-33, illus. & descrip.; The Sun [Vancouver], 6 June 1916, 10, descrip.; Vancouver Daily World, 25 July 1916, 19, descrip. Province [Vancouver], 26 July 1916, 8, descrip.; and 16 June 1917, 14 extensive architectural description)
(with Frederick J. Peters) VANCOUVER, B.C., The Orpheum Theatre, Granville Street near Smythe Street, 1926-27 (C.R., xl, 16 June 1926, 53; The Province [Vancouver], 8 Jan. 1927, 3; Vancouver Sun, 5 Nov. 1927, Section Three, 4-6, illus. & descrip.; H. Kalman, History of Canadian Architecture, 1994, 744, illus. & descrip.; dwgs. at the Canadian Architectural Archives, Univ. of Calgary, McCarter Nairne Coll.)