1414 2nd Avenue,
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Architects: Edwin Walker Houghton
Styles: Romanesque Revival
Previous Names: New Empress Theatre, Clemmer Theatre
Considered to be the first theatre in Seattle constructed primarily for the exhibition of motion pictures, the Clemmer Theatre bore the name of James Q. Clemmer, who spent $135,000 to construct the movie palace.
Seattle had several movie theatres before the Clemmer Theatre, but most were either remodeled storefronts or live theatres that also showed movies.
That the Clemmer Theatre isn’t as well remembered as other Seattle theatres isn’t surprising; it bore the Clemmer name for only nine years before being renamed the Columbia Theatre in 1922.
In 1912, the Seattle Times described the theatre: “The old Roman style is in vogue, plain columns set off by flaming electric torches. These torches are decidedly unique and something new in the manner of theatrical lighting in the West”.
One of the standout elements of the theatre was its organ. On April 7, 1912, The Seattle Sunday Times reported: “Great Organ to Be Installed”.
“On either side of the proscenium arch, in large specially built niches will be placed the pipes of the massive pipe organ which will be one of the largest and finest on the Coast. This organ is being built in the East, but could not be completed in time for the opening of the theatre. It will be installed within the next thirty days. Oliver G. Wallace, recognized as a genius in the interpretation of photoplays on the pipe organ and piano, will be the player”.
The Columbia Theatre was still open in 1932, but had closed by 1933.
The Clemmer/Columbia building still stands today, but it now houses a restaurant.
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