Historic Name: New
Seeley Theatre and Opera House Site
Current Name: New Seeley Opera House
67 S. Seventh Street
Original Town Plat Block 8 Lot: N79’of10&9
Architect: E.W. Houghton & Sons
Classification: Historic Contributing
Description: The three and one-half story brick building has a hip roof, wide overhanging eave on the front elevation supported by massive wood brackets sheltering wooden casement windows, and two brick square towers with a decorative brick frieze flank the central bay on the west (front) elevation. The brick spandrel above the balcony windows are embellished with raised brick in a geometric pattern. The balcony has been enclosed with multi-pane vinyl windows and boarding; the original French doors are behind the enclosure. A wide brick Sullivanesque arch covers the recessed double entrance doors. Windows on the front elevation are a combination of larger fixed-pane windows and smaller multi-pane casements. The arch is constructed of buff colored brick that contrasts with the red brick exterior. The side elevations are articulated with raised brick pilasters on the upper story that create rectangular panels. Multiple service/stage doors are on the side and rear elevations. The rear elevation (east) is taller than the front of the theatre to accommodate the height of the interior stage. An outside garden is south of the building and the alley is to the north.
Cultural Data: This lot was originally the site of Burlingame Hall (erected in 1879 and demolished in 1935) that was used by the community for gatherings, dances, and other events such as prize fights, plays, and wrestling. The old hall was moved to Seventh and Columbia streets when the New Seeley Theatre and Opera House was erected by Charles H. Seeley. Plans for the construction of the new theatre began in 1911. Well known Seattle architect E.W. Houghton was hired to design the new modern building; the design for the new Seeley Theatre was similar to Seattle’s famous Moore Theatre. Completed in 1913, the theatre opened on 24 November 1913 with over 700 people in the attendance anxiously waiting to see the London play “Bunty Pull the Strings.” Claude and Abbie Thompson were managers of the theatre at that time. A hand-painted advertising screen, or oleo (still intact) rolled down to conceal the stage, and advertised Pomeroy’s businesses. The Wurlitzer Orchestra & Photo player graced the orchestra adding to the evening’s performances. Abbie Thompson continued to operate the theatre after her husband’s death in the early 1920s, and in 1929, updated the theatre with new carpets, drapes, restrooms, and by enlarging the projection room to accommodate the equipment necessary to play “talkies.” The first talkie, “Fast Company,” was shown in October 1929.
Abbie Thompson eventually purchased the theatre and ran the business until January 1950 when she sold to Seeley’s grandson, Seeley Allen. In the 1950s, the box seats were removed to install a wide screen for cinemascope films. The first Technicolor film, “Red Skies of Montana” was shown in 24 January 1952. Allen sold the theatre in 1955 to Floyd and Mary Kobersteins who modernized the lobby. The last movie at the theatre was shown in the 1960s. When the theatre business failed, a refrigeration and repair shop used the building. The current owner purchased the building with a group of investors in 1980 from the Kobersteins, and started showing movies again in the 1980s (quit again in the early 1990s). The owner, now the sole proprietor, is in the process of rehabilitating the theatre. The theatre is used for performances during the summer months. The original hand-painted (Minnesota artist) vaudeville scenery flats are still intact in the building as is the original advertising oleo. There are only few of these advertising screens and original scenery flats remaining in the country. The commercial space in the building was used as a tailor’s shop from 1913 to the 1920s, photography gallery in the 1920s and 1930s, a beauty shop in late 1930s and 1940s, and a shoe repair in the 1950s to 1962.
Accessory Structure: None
Researched and Written by
Donovan & Associates
Hood River, Oregon
For the Pomeroy Commercial Historic District