AKA: United Artists Theatre, Seattle, WA; Liberty Theater, Seattle, WA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Ryan, Henderson, Architect (firm); Henderson Ryan (architect/building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1912-1914, demolished 1955

3 stories

1st Avenue
Seattle, WA

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Seattle theatre operators Claude Jensen and John G. von Herberg requested Seattle architect Henderson Ryan (1856-1927) produce a design for a three-story office building (the Blaine Building) which would wrap symmetrically around a central movie theatre. Like many commercial buildings of the era, this Blaine Building and its enwrapped Liberty Theatre had white terra cotta tiles decorating the exterior. The terra cotta exterior featured classical details, pilasters with capitals, arched windows and an elaborate cornice. The Liberty Theatre opened 10/27/1914, a movies-only theatre, unlike most of the era that also accommodated vaudeville and other live shows. The Liberty had a clear span, with no supporting pillars on the interior; it boasted a 1,500-pipe Wurlitzer organ and had an unusual marquis facing 1st Avenue shaped like New York's Statue of Liberty.

The Liberty Theatre stood directly to the east of the Pike Place Market. According to architect and architectural historian Larry Johnson and theater historian David Jeffers, on the interior of the Liberty Theatre, architect Henderson Ryan developed a ramp system that he reused in other theatres for owners Jensen and Von Herberg: "For the Liberty, Ryan developed [a] new ramp design that provided easy balcony access while maximizing auditorium space. He patented the ramp in 1916, and used the design in other later theaters." To cut costs, Ryan reused designs for new theatres being built by Jensen and von Herberg in MT, OR and WA; as Johnson and Jeffers noted: "The [Seattle] Neptune Theater appears to have been a smaller and stripped-down version of the Rialto Theater Ryan designed for Butte, Montana, sharing the same corner orientation." (See Larry Johnson and David Jeffers, "Henderson Ryan’s Neptune Theater,"Accessed 02/21/2013.)

The Liberty was sold in 12/1926 and became the United Artists Theatre on 01/07/1927. Its name changed back to the Liberty Theatre in 1929 and remained this until its demolition. The theatre was retrofitted to show CinemaScope motion pictures in stereo in 1955. Shortly thereafter, its owners, Theatres Incorporated tore the venue down to create a parking lot that still existed in 2007.

Demolished; the Liberty theatre was razed in 1955 for a parking lot; the parking lot remained as of 2007.

PCAD id: 6198