When Seattle's Orpheum Theatre fell: 1967
Many considered it to be the greatest of the more than 150 theaters designed by B. Marcus Priteca.
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SEATTLE'S RENOWNED theater architect B. Marcus Priteca, sitting in the "Louis XIV majesty chair" he had chosen 40 years earlier and holding a glass of Champagne, gave a farewell toast on June 19, 1967, to what many considered the greatest of the more than 150 theaters he designed: Seattle's own Orpheum Theatre. The Champagne, it was explained, helped wash down the popcorn and ease the pain of losing the landmark.
A week after his toast, the then-74-year-old Priteca was quoted in The Seattle Times saying he believed the "modernizing" his theater had endured in recent years was "unforgivably tasteless." "There's some beautiful stuff behind that cheap cloth," he said, motioning toward draperies that covered the stage.
The next day a two-day auction was launched, supervised by Greenfield's Auction Galleries. Its proprietor, Lou Greenfield, said "everything will be sold that can be unscrewed, chiseled or blasted loose ... You can buy a chunk of marble off the wall if you want, but the problem of removing it is yours." Greenfield added, "The dismantling of much of the theater's majestic interior will be impractical. It will fall victim to the wrecking ball." And he was right, as can be seen in Frank Shaw's snapshot of the Orpheum's battered proscenium arch on Sept. 10, 1967.
Orpheum marble had legs. Two weeks after the auction, an advertisement in The Times read, in part, "Fine Imported Marble ... All From the ORPHEUM. Bargain Prices." At least this time buyers were not required to remove it from the walls.
Some of that polished rock made it to a Queen Anne yard sale years later. It now covers part of my desk.
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