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Talkies In The 'Hood
Although all the structures here at the northeast corner of Roy Street and 19th Avenue have survived, the Roycroft Theater stopped showing films in 1959. Later it became the Russian Community Center.  

Almost certainly 1935 was the year this photograph of the Roycroft corner was recorded. The names of these businesses at the southeast corner of Roy Street and 19th Avenue East all appear in the 1935 business directory, and business life expectancy at the hard heart of the Great Depression was poor.

Neighborhood movie houses were one exception to this general attrition. At little palaces like the Roycroft Theater, one could, for 15 cents, waste a shiftless afternoon sitting through three B movies. "Air Hawks," the last film listed here, is good corroborating evidence for the 1935 date. Released that year by Columbia Pictures, this story of two aviation firms fighting over a U.S. airmail contract starred the pioneer pilot Wiley Post, playing himself. Later that year, Post visited Seattle with the comedian Will Rogers before the two flew off for Alaska and the crash that took both their lives.

The Roycroft was one of many neighborhood theaters built around Seattle in the late 1920s to feature the new miracle of talkies. Watson Ackles managed the Roycroft in 1935, a year in which the city directory lists three other Ackleses as working in motion pictures.

By 1935 this largely Roman Catholic neighborhood was already quite seasoned. The 19th Avenue trolley line ran as far north as Galer Street in 1907, the year St. Joseph Parish was dedicated nearby at 18th and Aloha and Bishop O'Dea laid the cornerstone of Holy Names Academy.

In the historical view, the cross-topped Holy Names dome stands out. In the contemporary scene, the recently restored cupola is hardly visible because the Capitol Hill urban landscape has grown up in the intervening 66 years.

Paul Dorpat's two-hour videotape on Seattle's early history, "Seattle Chronicle," is $29.95 from Tartu Publications, P.O. Box 85208, Seattle, WA 98145.

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