AKA: Metropolitan Theater, Downtown, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Howells and Stokes, Architects (firm); Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation, Builders (firm); Abraham Horace Albertson (architect); John Mead Howells (architect); Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes (architect); Charles A. Stone (electrical engineer); Edwin S. Webster (electrical engineer)

Dates: constructed 1910-1911, demolished 1956

3 stories

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417 University Street
Metropolitan Tract, Seattle , WA 98101

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The Metropolitan Theatre stood in front of the Olympic Hotel, on what became its entry courtyard at 417 University Street..

Overview

In the 1910s-1920s, the Metropolitan had the reputation in Seattle as being the premier venue in which to see live theatre or musical performances. It formed part of the Metropolitan Tract, a large-scale commercial real estate development owned by the University of Washington in downtown Seattle, WA, begun in 1909. The theatre, a beloved Seattle institution, closed in 1954, and was torn down in early 1956.

Building History

The New York architecture firm of Howells and Stokes designed the facility using a steel and reinforced concrete frame. The front facade, notable for its elaborate cross-bond brickwork and florid classical ornamentation in terra cotta, stood three stories high. The eclectic facade, with its patterned brickwork and tightly grouped, arched windows, derived its character from Venetian and Neoclassical prototypes. Working in concert with Howells and Stokes, Abraham H. Albertson (1872-1964) served as an Associate Architect on the Metropolitan Theatre.

An early, grandiose conception for the Metropolitan Theatre Building, had it contained in the center of a large office block across University Street from the unbuilt Grandin Building. A segmental arched roof of glass would cover University Street attached to the Grandin and Metropolitan Theatre Buildings, shielding patrons entering the theatre. This conception, probably far too expensive, remained unbuilt. In 1923-1924, the Olympic Hotel would be built around the central Metropolitan Theatre, its conception consistent with this early design for a Metropolitan Theatre office building of 1910.

Plans for the construction of the Metropolitan Theatre arrived in Seattle by 11/10/1910. According to the Seattle Daily Times: "Tentative plans for the new Metropolitan Theatre, which Klaw & Erlanger of New York, will build at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue and University Street in this city, were received yesterday by the Seattle office of Howell & Stokes, architects in the Henry Building, and were later submitted to Building Inspector Francis W. Grant, who will approve them, it is said, providing certain minor alterations are made. It is believed here that the actual work of construction will be begun some time next month. A representative of Stone & Webster, the contractors, who will have this work in charge, is now in New York conferring with Mr. Klaw." (See "Metropolitan Plans Arrive," Seattle Daily Times, 11/11/1910, p. 6.)

Ground was broken for the Metropolitan Theatre on 11/28/1910. The Seattle Daily Times stated in its Sunday review of the week's real estate events: "Another important building event was the breaking of ground last Monday for the new $250,000 Metropolitan Theatre to be constructed by Klaw & Erlanger at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue and University Street." (See "Building Review Reveals Activity," Seattle Daily Times, 12/04/1910, p. 46.)

Building Notes

On 06/08/1910, the Metropolitan Building Company signed a contract with Klaw and Erlanger, theatrical booking agents from New York, to supply talent to the Metropolitan Theatre.(See "Theatre Contract Good News for Klaw & Erlanger," Seattle Daily Times, 06/08/1910, p.1.) The arrival of this large syndicate in the Pacific Northwest to stage productions irritated some local impresarios, most notably, John Cort. (See Edgar H. Thomas, "Syndicate, in Announcement of New Metropolitan Theatre for Seattle, Accept John Cort's Kind Invitation to Come to Northwest; with Both Factions on Ground, It's up to Each to Make Good," Seattle Daily Times, 06/12/1910, p. 72 and "Small Houses Seeking Plays of Syndicate," Seattle Daily Times, 07/20/1910, p. 1

The Viennese opera, "The Spring Maid," produced by Werba and Luescher, began its engagement at the Metropolitan Theatre on Sunday 11/12/1911. (See "Amusements," Seattle Daily Times, 11/07/1911, p. 22.)

The Standard Grand Opera Company of Seattle debuted at the Metropolitan Theatre on 04/21/1914. (See "Seattle and State Advance During Year 1914," Seattle Daily Times, 01/03/1915, p. 24.)

In the 1950s, the Metropolitan Theatre had 85 feet of street frontage, and could seat 1,439 patrons.

Demolition

The Metropolitan Theatre was torn down during the months of January through June of 1956. It was removed to provide more space for a $1,500,000 addition to the Olympic Hotel that surrounded it. (See "Regents Study Extension of Hotel Lease," Seattle Daily Times, 1956-07-15, p. 21.) The theatre was razed to make room for the hotel's new drive-in entrance, restaurant and meeting hall. Architects reused existing roof supports (shortening them from 65 to 56 feet) and at least one, 15-ton, steel truss from the theatre to support the roof of the new hotel addition. (See "Ticklish Job," Seattle Daily Times, 04/24/1956, p. 14.)

PCAD id: 6072