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Summary for 4916 Rainier AVE / Parcel ID 1702901670 / Inv #

Historic Name: Columbia Theater Common Name:
Style: Vernacular Neighborhood: Columbia City
Built By: Year Built: 1920
This brick building was built in 1920 with the intention of establishing a movie theater. The subject building replaced a small false front building originally located on the site. Designed by architect John L. McCauley, the building has a small but handsome façade with brick arches over the windows and entrance and brick corbelling beneath the cornice. Originally designed as a rectangular building, the subject building was redesigned in a “T” shape, with the back of the building, containing the auditorium, fronting on Hudson Street. The auditorium section was constructed in 1923. According to local tradition, the reason for the unusual design was a city ordinance, which stated that any amusement building had to be 500 feet from a school. The auditorium was put to the rear of the building, down a long hallway, so that the 500-foot requirement was met. McCauley, an architect and engineer, resided at 3254 S. Edmunds Street in Columbia City, and designed at least four of the buildings in the Columbia City business district. McCauley was a City Inspector and Engineer in 1908 and later active as an architect. During the teens and 1920s he was responsible for the design of many commercial buildings, including stores, factories and hotels in Seattle’s International District, industrial area south of downtown and in the Denny regrade area near Lake Union. The Columbia Theatre occupied the building for a number of years. At various times Carrol’s Sweet Shop and Naylor’s Electric Bakery operated in the lobby fronting on Rainier Avenue. The subject building has undergone a few alterations to the façade, but retains the brick detailing at the windows and cornice. It contributes to the historic district due to its architecture and its importance as a community-meeting place during the 1920s through 50s. It also is associated with John L. McCauley, a prominent local architect.
This intact one story vernacular theater building is of masonry construction and is supported by a concrete foundation. The building has a T-shaped plan and a flat roof with a tiered parapet. The building is clad in brick with stucco on brick and wood trim. The main façade is composed of three parts, an inset entrance on the south end, an angled wall in the center, and a wall flush with the sidewalk edge. The entryway is composed of a door with sidelights and an arched three-part multi-paned transom window above. The other two parts are composed of a series of three windows with arched three-part multi-paned transom window above. The windows and entryway have stucco clad surrounds. As stated above the building has a T-shaped plan; the theater is located in the top of the “T”, the length of the theater room runs behind the two flanking buildings and is parallel to Rainier Avenue South.

Detail for 4916 Rainier AVE / Parcel ID 1702901670 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status: NR, LR
Cladding(s): Brick, Stucco, Wood Foundation(s): Concrete - Block
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Asphalt/Composition
Building Type: Recreation and Culture - Theater Plan: T-Shape
Structural System: Brick No. of Stories: one
Unit Theme(s):
Storefront: Slight
Changes to Original Cladding: Intact
Changes to Plan: Intact
Changes to Windows: Intact
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
Polk's Seattle Directories, 1890-1996.
Anderson, Buzz. “Columbia Theater was Busy Place in 1930s,” Beacon Hill News & South District Journal, page 1, 2/27/2002.
Centennial History, Columbia City, Rainier Valley, 1853-1991, Pioneers of Columbia City. Seattle, Washington, 1992.
Architects file cards, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, Historic Preservation Program, 700 3rd Avenue, Suite 400, Seattle, WA, 98104.

Photo collection for 4916 Rainier AVE / Parcel ID 1702901670 / Inv #

Photo taken Mar 22, 2004
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