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 Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum–Seattle’s Hidden Museum

Pioneer Square is a treasure trove for Seattle history, being one of the oldest areas of the city. At 317 3rd Avenue South, about a block from the train station and the International District Link Light Rail station, you can find the Seattle Metropolitan Police Museum. This is a small museum where the general public can access most of the Seattle Police Department and King County Sheriff Department’s histories. I cannot say ‘all’ of the history since most of the records and photographs from the departments’ early histories (prior to June 1889) was lost in the Great Seattle Fire which I will probably do a whole blog on since that disaster really shaped the face of the ‘modern’ city. They have only been able to locate one photograph of the department before 1889—it was found in a private collection and, as of the time I visited, it was in the museum.

It is not a large museum compared to many in Seattle but it is the largest privately funded police museum in United States. Inside of the museum the exhibits focus on related photographs and documents from the history of the area, displays on weaponry, uniforms, and badges as they progressed. There is also a vintage communication section and a jail cell for visitors to explore.

I originally headed to the museum to research a Steampunk novel I was working on. I was able to spend a very pleasant afternoon wandering around the displays and chatting with the elderly lady at the front desk. She was one of the few volunteers who help keep the museum open—it is a small affair and sometimes it gets passed over more than it deserves.

As she showed me the museum is laid out in a chronological order, starting with the Sheriff’s department that covered the territory before Seattle was officially incorporated. With gaps for the information lost in the fire (the original police station burned down) it moved into the 20th century, discussing the back-and-forth tensions between the Sheriff’s department and the Police department. Bootlegging came up next and the Prohibition—slowly it moved into the Depression, and then the changes the department went through during World War II. Along the way they discussed how the police department grew and changed as the area grew bigger and more small towns were incorporated in. Finally it moved into modern times and some of the more well-known crime histories in the area. The interactive displays like a 9-1-1 dispatcher console are located in a side room toward the back of the museum—they’re really fun to take a peek at!

Since this museum is often passed over except by researchers like myself, or visitors to Seattle who’ve seen it on a map and are curious, you do not need to worry about fighting large crowds. I was alone in the building for over an hour before a small group of travelers came in to check out the displays.

The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00am to 4:00pm. Anyone 12 and older are considered adults and their admission is $4.00 per person. Children 11 and under, along with handicapped guests, are $2.00 per person.

If you are a researcher the museum does have access to a research library. However it is not open to the public due to the delicate materials being stored there. Requests for information may be submitted to the museum by either calling the museum or writing to them. They will need an explanation of what you are looking for and the reason why—once they have that information they’ll help you as best they can. More information about the library can be found on the website: http://www.seametropolicemuseum.org/default.html

Now you all go out and have a good time exploring one of Seattle’s over-looked gems!

‘Personal Courage’ At the Museum of Flight

Here’s a fun fact about me: I am fascinated by airplanes. I’m not entirely sure why this trait came about but I do know it started early. Like “being five years old and staring up at the sky, mesmerized by contrails” early. My first experience at an airport was in Eugene, Oregon in the late nineties (When you could still go past security and meet people at the gate), going to pick up my grandmother when she flew in from visiting family in Minnesota. Then I spent my tween years living pretty much across the street from a U.S. Air Force base and actually thought about becoming a pilot for the Air Force when I was about twelve.

From there the interest in airplanes has moved away from a practical one and more toward a ‘casual appreciation’ type of interest. For instance I love watching airplanes take off—something about the hard, sleek lines of the capsule as it streaks past the soft, rounded lines of the landscape around it captures my attention. I also love being in Downtown Seattle and watching them circle around to approach SeaTac airport, framing themselves up against Mount Rainer if it’s a sunny day. There’s a great joy in viewing their lights and then the plane itself suddenly appearing if it’s foggy. Possibly the greatest fun, though, is to be stargazing and have to squint just to tell if you’re watching an airplane on the approach or if you’ve just spotted a UFO.

Naturally given some of my other hobbies it means that the history of planes is equally fascinating to me. That of course means that the Museum of Flight, down at Boeing Field just south of Seattle proper, is like being in a candy store.

I’ve actually been to the museum three times since I moved in. Unlike other museums in the area it really doesn’t have much in the field of ‘rotating’ exhibits but its permanent collection needs several viewings to soak it all in.

Of course the main bulk of the museum is dedicated to a huge collection of planes suspended from the ceiling several stories up and working down. This is truly the heart of the museum, including (on the ground floor) an exhibit on the life and disappearance of Amelia Earhart and one on the mail planes in the Alaskan bush. You can also go up into a tower and take a look at the instruments and radars that air traffic control officers’ use, along with an active radar display of the air over Boeing Field. Despite their fascinating content these are not my favorite areas of the museum though.

My favorite area is actually on the other side of the gift shop. It is the Personal Courage wing—a two-story area dedicated to fighter planes from World War I and World War II.

Not only do they have planes from both eras on display but they have worked hard to carefully recreate the time periods that the equipment came from. Around the planes are photos, artifacts and interactive exhibits detailing the uniforms worn, the headlines and news articles of the time, the politics of the era, and letters and notes from the soldiers themselves. All of this is just to give viewers a solid, well-rounded image of what was actually going on at the front lines and the home front during the war times.

One particular detail I remember from the WWII exhibit was a series of radios scattered around at different displays that you could interact with by turning the dial between channels. You could flip between songs from the 1940s, like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” by the Andrews Sisters or Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”, radio news clips such as live reporters from the London Blitz, or speeches given by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. For me the chance to hear back into the past, to listen to what everyone then was hearing in live time, really helps me to step back into the era and connect with it.

The museum was exacting on the details of both displays—gentle enough that the information can be accessible to a wide age range but honest enough that they aren’t sugarcoating it. I would not recommend it for a very young audience but children over eight should be able to handle the content, though every child is different when it comes to the information that they can process and appreciate. I would also not recommend it to people who might be sensitive or easily triggered by sounds of gunfire or explosions. While it is only in a few areas (I believe the trench exhibit in the WWI section may be the only one that really features this) it can still be overwhelming to some. It is accessible for handicapped parties.

To those among us who are history buffs I highly recommend this exhibit. It is carefully crafted and heavy on the details. It was created with love in mind: A love of history, a love of aviation and a love for honoring those that have come before us and secured the world that we enjoy today. It’s in that same spirit that I hope all of you will view the exhibit in and marvel at it.