The Moore Theater

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What exactly does it mean to offer your theater to ‘legitimate shows’? According to Mr. Webster the definition of ‘legitimate’ that applies to this context is “relating to plays acted by professional actors but not including revues, burlesques, or some forms of musical comedy”.

Now why did this matter?

I’m not sure if this sign was part of the original Moore Theatre’s design or added at some point during the theatre’s 108-year history but in 1907, when the Moore opened, theatre did not always have the best of reputations. While being one of the main forms of public entertainment there were many types of shows performed on stages and some were less respectable than others. Bawdy comedies, vaudeville performances, burlesques (at this point in history more song-and-dance shows then the strip teases they became), and dance hall performances painted a wide and varied picture of the ‘stage’ in many peoples minds. Some legitimate theatres, eager to distance themselves from these scandalous groups, actually advertised themselves more as lecture halls then performance venues. To that end they could calm the fears of the more reserved and conservatives members of society which would ensure that they stayed in business.

The Moore is the oldest still-operating theatre in Seattle. As the sign promises it does offer real stage shows along with the mentioned concerts and other types of entertainment. When it opened it catered to Seattle’s elite though, like many theatre venues, it was sorely hit by the changing times and almost closed its doors permanently during the 1970s before a huge innovation saved it…but more on that turn of events in a moment.

The Moore had a long and (rather) glorious run before the 1970s came about. In its first decade it was the home of the Seattle Symphony, and such performers as Ethel Barrymore, and the Marx Brothers graced their stage along with presentations of several Shakespeare plays and “Madame Butterfly”.

The Moore was bought by the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit right after the first World War ended. They kept it as their main base until 1927. That was when they built their own theatre (now closed) several blocks away. At that point the Moore went up for lease and it was rented by Cecilia Schultz, a premotor of different arts in Seattle. She used the theater for a wide variety of events ranging from musical performances to lectures by Robert Ripley. After she retired in 1949 the Moore was rented mainly by different religious revivals and other smaller events.

Another short run of glory began in 1954 when Hugh Becket, the manager of the freshly-closed Seattle Metropolitan Theatre, took over the Moore and continued his business of booking and hosting plays and performances. Still it did not last long and The Moore was back to renting itself out and struggling to stay ahead of newer theatres and the afore-mentioned rise of the cinema within a few years. By the 1970s the theatre was on the ropes even though it had been added to the historic registry of Seattle in 1974.

As they say though adaptation is the key to survival.

In 1975 two Canadians, Darryl MacDonald and Dan Ireland, took on the theatre and transformed it into a cinema house. They meant to use it as a home for Hollywood revivals and foreign films but in 1976 the Moore, now called the Moore Egyptian, became the home to the first annual Seattle International Film Festival. As SIFF went on to become one of the most successful film festivals in America it moved its headquarters first to a theatre on Capital Hill and then to another building at City Center in Seattle. Ten years later the Moore (dropping “Egyptian” from the title as that went to the new SIFF theatre In Capital Hill) was again without tenants and reverted to being an event-to-event rental again.

In 1992 Ida Cole, an alumna of Microsoft, and her non-profit organization, The Seattle Landmark Association (Which would later become the Seattle Theatre Group), leased the property from its long-time owner George Toulouse. His ownership was the main reason behind the theatre surviving so long with its historical architecture mainly intact.

Now the Moore Theatre, the Seattle Theatre Group still leasing it from the Toulouse family, has returned to its roots as a venue for dynamic entertainment. They have incorporated all of the new additions that have been added over the years which allows which allows them to use the space for all kinds of events, from bands giving concerts to dance troupes and stage actors performing on stage along with using it as a movie theatre.

The Moore Theatre is a true survivor story. In an era when cities across the United States are losing so many of their historic buildings it’s comforting to know that a few of them manage to hang on through dedicated supporters and sheer persistence. Let’s hope we start hearing more success stories like the Moore in the years to come!

Dictionary cited from: www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/legtimate

Information about the Moore Theatre gathered from www.historylink.org , Wikipedia.org , and http://www.stgpresents.org/moore

The Train Stations of Seattle–Where Art and Function Meet

You have all already heard me wax on about airplanes and how much I love them. I also work in the cruise industry in the summer so I love to discuss ships too! I also love trains—though they no longer enjoy the popularity that they once had, especially on the west coast where the airplane and the car have become the dominant way to cross the vast spaces out here.

In Seattle the train still has its purposes though and its devoted users. It’s a quick and easy way to travel up and down the coast, as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and as far south as Eugene, Oregon, U.S.A. It is also a scenic and enjoyable trip.

For the art and history lover there is another huge boon to taking the train out of Seattle—King Street station, one of the two historic train stations next to each other, is still the active station and in 2013 they finished renovations that rebuilt the interior to its former glory. In the mid-twentieth century they had modernized the station and that meant covering much of the grand architecture and wall-and-ceiling molding, removing the original benches, signs and window paintings. Much of that has been restored and the station, open to ticket holders and to the public both, is again a place of beauty and elegance.

Every time I need to take the train I come a bit early just so that I can spend some time in the lobby. To sit in the old high-backed wooden benches while you’re waiting your train to come in, surrounded by gold fixtures and a ceiling that is coated in roses and scroll-work molding is to take a small step back into time.

Right next door to King Street Station is the second train station, Union Street. Built between 1910 and 1911 the lines that served the station all had discontinued passenger service to Seattle by 1971 with the Milwaukee Road ending service in 1961 and Union Pacific ending it in 1971.

For thirty years the building sat empty until it was majorly renovated in the early part of the twenty-first century. Today it is both the location of the public offices of Sound Transit and it is a public gathering space that is rented out for weddings, parties and proms in the evenings and on the weekends.

It is a historic and architectural masterpiece. Like King Street they have renovated it completely and brought it back to its former glory. The original directional signs are still painted on many of the windows, adding a wonderful nostalgic touch to the building. With large vaulted ceilings covered in scroll work, and column designs it is a perfect spot to stop and take some photos!

The stations are a perfect break point between Chinatown/International District and Pioneer Square. Grab a sandwich and a cup of coffee at any of the many shops in the area and pop down to Union Station. Enjoy the public space as you eat, explore a bit and then pop up one block west to King Street station. After spending some time there, marveling at the craftsmanship and architecture you will continue on your trip around the city. You’ll always though know that you can stop back down at the stations and have a quiet spot to rest and contemplate all of the history and art in this city and how they so often merge.