Washington Center/Liberty Theater site

Location: 512 Washington St SE
Downtown National Historic District; Popular culture

Liberty Theater, ca. 1935, Susan Parish Collection, Southwest Regional Archives, photo by V. Jeffers
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWashington Center today (2014), photo by Deb Ross

The Liberty Theater was erected about 1924 by the Reed-Ingham Company, which was owned by Thomas M. Reed and his brother-in-law Paul Ingham. The Reeds’ pioneer home was located here, and the Reed Block (now Drees) was just next door. The Liberty was one of many theaters located in downtown Olympia at the time, including the Rex, the Ray, the Capitol Theater, the Avalon, and others. The building was refurbished in the 1940s, when it was renamed the Olympic. 

With the advent of the multiplex and associated dropoff in attendance at the downtown theaters, the Olympic deteriorated. In the 1980s the City of Olympia acquired the theater and, over the objection of the city’s Heritage Commission, razed it to build the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. In 2014, the Washington Center received a much-needed facelift, in the course of which it introduced elements reflective of the original building, including the vertical marquee, fixed awning, and  cornices.

The building is in the Downtown National Historic District where it is listed as non-historic and non-contributing. 

Links:

Olympia Downtown National Historic District

Thurston Talk article by Emmett O’Connell, accessed April 8, 2014

WSHS, Andy Crow at Wurlitzer, enter the following catalog numbers in Collections Search box, C1986.4.63.8.26.3.1

 

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