Benjamin Marcus Priteca: Jewish Architect of Famous Synagogues and Movie Theaters, Seattle, Washington

Benjamin “Benny” Marcus Priteca

Values Codes I – E – L


Benjamin Pritca

Benjamin Pritca

Benjamin Marcus Priteca was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1889.

He was educated in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the George Watson’s College, followed by the Edinburgh College of Art, where he studied architecture.



Priteca came to Seattle in 1909, at age 20, to see the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.

Priteca began working as a freelance draftsman.

In 1911, he had a chance meeting with Alexander Pantages, the owner of a chain of theaters, which led to him working directly for Pantages.

His first jobs were working on two Pantages Theaters in San Francisco and Oakland.

He then moved back to Seattle, where he opened up his own architecture firm.



In 1914, Benjamin Priteca  received the commission to design the new synagogue for Seattle’s Congregation Bikur Cholim, which was his synagogue.

Bikur Cholim, Seattle, WA

Congregation Bikur Holim, Seattle, WA

Priteca created a very impressive structure with classical lines and a shallow dome.

It brought him deserved recognition throughout the Seattle.

Bikor Cholim, Seattle, inside

Bikor Cholim, Seattle, interior of the sanctuary

Among the various buildings he designed for other Seattle Jewish organizations were: the Settlement House building, where many Jewish immigrants became Americanized, the Seattle Talmud Torah, where many Orthodox Jewish children learned about Judaism, and the chapel for the Herzl Congregation.

In the late 1950’s, he designed the new building for the large Reform congregation, Temple De Hirsch, a design for which he was honored with an AIA Seattle Award.

Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Seattle

Temple De Hirsch Sinai, Seattle

In 1964, he won the job of designing the new building for the large Sephardic Congregation, Sephardic Bikur Holim, which incorporated modern and also Mediterranean-inspired elements.

Benjamin Marcus Priteca at work.

Benjamin Marcus Priteca at work.


Benjamin Priteca earned most of his money by designing movie theaters for the Pantages Theater Organization. He did this up and down the West Coast, in the Midwest, and also in Canada.

Pantages reportedly said of Benjamin Priteca:

“Any fool can make a place look like a million dollars by spending a million dollars, but it’s not everybody who can do the same thing with half a million.”

Over his career, Priteca designed more than one hundred theaters (from 1911-1950), although not all were for Pantages.

Some other theaters were for performing arts, rather than movies.

Some of Priteca’s theaters operated for many years, were closed, and then restored through major renovations, such as the Tacoma Pantages Theater, the Paramount Theater in Seattle, and the Pantages Theater in Fresno.

With so many commissions, Benjamin Priteca became nationally known for his expertise in this specialized building design, which emphasized acoustics and good sight lines.

Priteca also designed a number of other prominent buildings in the Seattle area, such as the Longacres Racetrack in Renton, WA, and the Seattle Police Department Public Safety Building. He was a consultant on the Seattle Opera House.

In 1951, Priteca was inducted into the American Institute of Architects College of Fellows.

Nearly half of Benjamin Priteca’s theaters remain in operation today, and many have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places

Pantages Theater, Los Angeles

Pantages Theater, Los Angeles


Although Benjamin Priteca never married, he always had an assistant architect working with him whom he mentored.

These men and their families became part of his unofficial family. Many of his assistants went on to successful architectural careers of their own.

Benjamin Priteca died in 1971.

Inside Temple De Hirsch, Seattle

Inside Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation, Seattle

Coliseum Theater, Seattle

Coliseum Theater, Seattle

Longacres Racetrack

Longacres Racetrack


  •  Eugene Normand, “Benjamin Marcus Priteca of Seattle & Gustave Albert Lansburgh of San Francisco: Two prominent West Coast Jewish Architects of the Early Twentieth Century,” Western States Jewish History 46/4.
  • “B. Marcus Priteca”, Essay 8815,
  • Miriam Sutermeister, “B. Marcus Priteca,” in Shaping Seattle Architecture: A Historical Guide to the Architects, ed. J. K. Ochsner (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994).
  • E. Normand, “A Tale of Two Cities’ Jewish Architects: Emile Weil of New Orleans and Benjamin Marcus Priteca of Seattle,” Southern Jewish History 16.

Eugene Normand is curator for this Benjamin Priteca exhibit.