AKA: Tacoma Theater, Tacoma, WA; Broadway Theatre, Tacoma, WA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Heide, August F., Architect (firm); Howard, John Galen, Architect (firm); Wood, James M., Architect (firm); August Franklin Heide (architect); John Galen Howard (architect); James Madison Wood (architect)

Dates: constructed 1888-1890, demolished 1963

4 stories

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902 Broadway
Downtown, Tacoma, WA 98402

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A notable collaboration of well-known designers produced the Tacoma Theatre, including the renowned and prolific theatre designer, James M. Wood and the highly trained architect John Galen Howard. Howard, in particular, would go on to have an important career, founding the architectural program at the University of California, Berkeley, and designing many buildings on that campus. Howard also supervised the architectural design of Seattle's Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909.

Building History

The Tacoma Opera House Company commissioned a group of architects to design this office/theatre block in Downtown Tacoma, WA. At this time, Tacoma was experiencing a development surge due to the completion of railroad service into the city in 1883. Chicago theatre architect James M. Wood designed the Tacoma Theatre assisted by IL-born architect August F. Heide (1862-1943). Architect John Galen Howard (1864-1931), who spent 1887-1888 working in Los Angeles, CA, before returning to the East Coast (and, in 1890, to Paris), designed the larger Richardsonian Romanesque building in which the Tacoma Theatre operated. Howard worked with Sydney Lowell, who completed the larger building's interior design. Others involved in the construction of the building included: Moore and Clark, Building Contractors; Spierling & Linden, Interior Decorators; Thomas Moses, scenic artist; Charles H. Smith, stage builder; and the Peterman Manufacturing Company, which produced the woodwork and carving.

Both Howard and Heide had worked together a year or so earlier in the Los Angeles architectural office of Caukin and Haas, and it is likely that the former enabled the latter to work on this Tacoma project.

Building Notes

It was first known as the Tacoma Opera House or the Tacoma Theatre, and had various names over the years: the "Malan-Magrath Theater" in 1905, the "Orpheum" in 1918, the "Broadway" from 1927-1933 and the "Music Box" after 1933.


In what was then Tacoma's single largest real estate transaction, the Tacoma Theatre Building was sold in mid-12/1925. By 03/07/1926, the Tacoma architectural firm, Heath, Grove and Bell had been hired to renovate the building. Construction went on during 1926 and early 1927. A grand reopening of the newly renamed "Broadway Theatre" occurred on 02/04/1927, attracting approximately 20,000 people.


The Tacoma Theatre was destroyed by fire on 04/30/1963. Fires were commonplace in theatres and opera houses of the 1800s, due to the use of limelight and other hazards. Two months after opening, a fire occurred 03/07/1890.

PCAD id: 4751