|Traffic | Weather | Your account||Movies | Restaurants | Today's events|
Now & Then
Getting The Picture
HOW MANY readers can still remember the ornamental Liberty Theatre on First Avenue across from the Pike Place Market? On bright afternoons the light bounced off its terra-cotta fašade illuminating the street.
It is now 51 years since Theatres Incorporated sent a letter to Ralph Stacy, then the King County assessor, that the company had "demolished and removed the Liberty Theatre and accordingly request that you remove the building from your assessment rolls." Their intention to open a parking lot to "relieve the congestion" around the Market was a sudden one. Only months earlier the theater's managers had briefly closed the Liberty for a CinemaScope and stereophonic fitting.
The Liberty opened on Oct. 27, 1914, and it was built for movies. There were only two dressing rooms, and both were in the mezzanine. The theater — with no pillars — was built around a 1,500-pipe Wurlitzer organ that was famous in its time for special effects such as birds cooing, crows cawing and surf pounding — an effect made within the organ by a rasping together of sandpaper blocks. The organ's largest part, a 32-foot bass pipe, was removed when its soundings continued to knock plaster from the ceiling. Throughout its 41 years, the Liberty was known for splendid acoustics.
"The Winning of Barbara Worth," the 1926 silent film showing here at the Liberty, was still being reviewed when the Liberty closed in December for new management and a new name. When it opened again on Jan. 7, 1927, as the United Artists Theatre, Seattle Mayor Bertha Landes did the honors standing beside a battery of U.S. Navy searchlights.
Two years and some bad debts later, the theater was again the Liberty and stayed so until replaced by the parking lot in 1955.
Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company