111 E. Fifth Avenue,
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Previously operated by: Hallett Cinemas, Midstate Amusement Corp.
Architects: Bjarne H. Moe
Styles: Streamline Moderne
The Liberty Theatre was opened in 1940 and was operated by Midstate Amusement Corp. It is completely done in a blocky Streamline Moderne style, and looks like the bridge of an ocean liner. The vertical marquee is a tall rectangle with a cap, set on one corner of the building. The service ladders on either side only enhance the nautical impression.
At some point, probably when the theater was triplexed, a large circular window on one side was filled in. The theater is now painted in blah putty colors, which Washingtonians seem to be in love with.
The Liberty Theater was closed in August 2009, and in 2010 was converted into a church.
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A pic here:
The Liberty opened in 1940, and quickly outshone the Pix (now triplexed as the Grand Central, after being known in the 70s-80s as the Village) and its adjacent mate, the Audion (now an antiques mall-ette), a few blocks away. The exterior colors were formerly aqua and white. The box office used to be located in a stand-alone kiosk under the marquee, until a drunk driver smashed his car into it, circa late 60s. The interior was comfortably moderne, with a huge, bold indirect lighting fixture in the shape of a three-sided rectangle, which clearly exposed the bubble gum wads on the ceiling. Some kid threw a milkshake at the screen during a Jerry Lewis matinee, and the stain was seen for years afterwards. It was a pleasant small town house, and carried a genuine importantness with it. On the exterior wall, above the marquee, is a large panel which looks like curtains. As a kid I thought it was some sort of preview screen, opened on special occasions. On closer (and older) examination, the ‘curtains’ were discovered to be concrete! The circular window, mentioned above, was indeed mindlessly filled in when the house was triplexed in the mid 80s. It opened into the men’s restroom, just above the urinals! Like the rest of the room, the window was trimmed out in elegant orange and blue tile. The shameful patchjob, seen on the exterior, is a small indicator of the brain-dead conversion job inside. The auditorium was raped, but the main and upper lobbies are fairly intact.
I would add that, after the 1980s ‘restoration’ of the Liberty, the landmark vertical sign was altered, unfavorably, I’m afraid. Atop the platform used to be a very, very Deco tower extention, probably about five feet high. It was outlined in neon, in the form of circles and other streamlined shapes. The effect was similar to the vertical spotlight seen in the 20th Century-Fox logo. In the mini-tower’s latter days, the neon tubing had obviously become damaged (perhaps from Ellensburg’s famous windiness), so, those who altered the theatre simply junked the whole extention. The pinnicle is sorely missed by the few who ever noticed it, as the ‘flat top’ has an unfinished look to it. Details such as these are always meaningful, otherwise the architect never would have put it there in the first place.
Boxoffice Magazine of September 18, 1937, carried an article about the recent opening of the Liberty Theatre in Ellensburg. The owner of the theater was Frederick Mercy. The house had 750 seats on opening, and was designed by Seattle architect Bjerne Moe, designer of many theaters in the Pacific Northwest.
As of August, 2009, the Liberty went dark. Hallett Theatres sold it to the local Calvary Baptist Church. The church’s management has made it known that they are aware of the building’s architectural value. They intend to remove the triplex walls and return to a single auditorium layout. They claim that the ‘Liberty’ sign will remain on the exterior.
Local newspaper reports stated the Liberty was built in 1937, as mentioned above.
This ending of an era is certainly a blow, but at least the building will not go derelict or face demolition.
From 1937 a photo postcard view of the Liberty Theater in Ellensburg.
I like the 1980 picture the best,Really nice shot.April 1 1970 the theatre urged moviegoers to see “BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID” on the weekday nights to avoid the long lines.One showing each night at 7:30 pm.Every hear of ADDING shows!!
The Calvary Baptist Church has now opened for business.
I recently did a walk-through and was impressed at the new layout. Since so much had previously been trashed, what remained was mostly the proscenium columns and the stage itself. The balcony remains as a closed off unit, but a partial restoration is better than none at all.
The Vogue Theatre in nearby Cle Elum is currently undergoing rebirth from the wall studs on up. The Liberty and the Vogue shared entrance door designs for years.
An article about the conversion to a church: View link
2011 photos can be seen here, here, and here.