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Summary for 1513 3rd AVE / Parcel ID 1975700450 / Inv #

Historic Name: Winter Garden Theater Common Name: Aaron Brothers Store
Style: Commercial Neighborhood: Commercial Core
Built By: Year Built: 1920
This property is directly associated with the early twentieth century era (1920-1930) when a significant number of commercial buildings were constructed and the modern downtown commercial district was fully established. In 1923 Seattle adopted its first ordinance that regulated specific geographic areas for specified uses; it allowed the most densely concentrated commercial development to occur in the downtown core. The economic prosperity of the 1920s stimulated the development of numerous major highrise commercial buildings, as well as smaller-scale bank and commercial buildings, major hotels and apartment hotels, club buildings and entertainment facilities, which were typically designed by leading Seattle architects. During this era, the original residential district was entirely absorbed by commercial and other real estate development. By 1930, virtually all of the old residential properties - as well as many of the immediate post-fire era commercial buildings outside of Pioneer Square - had been demolished or removed. The building permit issued to the progressive Company for the construction of a “Motion Picture Theater” was dated July 24, 1920 and noted an anticipated cost of $95,000. The architect of record is Frank H. Fowler; however, a note on the permit states “Marcus Priteca has original tracings.” Sherman Coombes was the general contractor. The original theater interior was decorated with fluted columns and Neo-Roman ornament provided by Mercier & Van Ripper. The Winter Garden Theater opened on December 3, 1920. The January 1922 Washington State Architect reported that the theatre was “one of the new motion picture theatres of Seattle” and described innovative interior features that included a ladies’ restroom (where children could be quietly cared for) and a men’s smoking room. These spaces were each located along the balcony with plate glass fronts facing the stage (screen) and advantageous views – something considered to be very popular with modern theatergoers. The theater also featured a cigar shop, snack bar and an innovative ventilation system Stockholders in the Progressive Company (subsequently known as the Winter Garden Company) were described as local men headed by James Q. Clemmer, a well-known “theatre man.” Clemmer is known to have opened the 1,200 seat Clemmer Theater at 1414 Third Avenue on April 12, 1912. It is recognized as recognized as having been one of the first theaters in the Seattle and the United States to be primarily constructed for the exhibition of motion pictures. Several prior theaters were actually remodeled storefronts or live theater venues that also showed movies. The Coliseum Theater, considered to be one of the first great movie palaces opened in 1916. Clemmer had established his first movie house - the Dream Theater that included a pipe organ - in an unused storefront in Pioneer Square in 1908. The Clemmer Theater operated under that name for nine years. Like the Winter Garden Theatre, it was designed and decorated in a Neo- Roman mode with plain columns and electric touches. Clemmer operated the Winter Garden Theatre until 1926 but apparently fell on hard time and sold it. Thereafter, he continued to make a name for himself as a theater manager; managing several important downtown theaters, including: the 5th Avenue Theater (1925); Blue Mouse; the Orpheum (1927, destroyed); and the Music Box (1928, destroyed). In 1936, the property was sold to the Third and University Corporation and additional seating was added. The exterior altered in 1949 and the theater became known as the Garden Theatre. From the mid-1960s until it closed as a theater in June 1979, it was know as the Garden Art Theater and operated by Harold Greenland, who also operated the Green Parrot and the Neptune Theater. The Garden Art Theater gained a wide reputation for showing 35mm XXX rated films including several hit pornographic movies of the era. In 1979, the interior and storefronts were entirely remodeled to house the Lerner’s Clothing Store. The theater was designed by Frank H. Fowler, a Seattle architect with offices in the Smith Tower. Fowler appears to have been in practice by 1915 designing residences, apartment houses and store buildings. During the late 1910s, Fowler may have worked for the highly notable architect Marcus Priteca - who played a major role in the development of the theater building type, as Fowler was associated with a former Priteca employee and Priteca appears to have had some limited role in this project. During the 1920s, Fowler is known to have designed numerous apartment buildings and commercial buildings, including the Wilsonian and Hardt Apartments and the Lambert Building located in the University District. He also designed the Wilson Modern Business School building (2005 5th Avenue, 1927). Unfortunately, this is a heavily altered example of an important downtown property type – motion picture theater. Only a few of the major movie palaces are extant and none of those continue to function as motion picture theaters or serve their exclusive original purpose. Despite its historic role and associations with important individuals, the building does not possess sufficient physical integrity to convey architectural and/or historic significance.
Located mid-block on the west side of Third Avenue between Pike and Pine Streets, this three-story building was originally designed and built to serve as a motion picture theater. It has not functioned as a theater since the early 1980s and is currently used for retail store purposes. It measures 60’ x 108’ and exhibits some remnants of the original ornate theater façade. The ordinary masonry and concrete structure with partial basement is currently clad at the upper floor levels with painted concrete stucco (or cement plaster). The storefront level has been entirely modernized and altered and does not retain any historic building fabric or features. The façade is divided between three bays; the central bay still retains four engaged columns with terra cotta caps and bases. Between each pilaster is the shadow of former window openings at the second floor level and the third floor level (that held sets of multi-pane casement windows). The taller third floor level shadows were originally blank but included windows with a decorative panel above by c.1937. Surmounting the pilaster caps is an original moulding band and a stepped parapet with coping. The side bays that flank the central bay include the same fenestration shadow. The theater originally included 749 seats and a central ticket booth, which was flanked by sets of entry doors and a small street level retail shop to each side. A very elaborate electrified 520 sq. ft steel and glass marquee and a monumental, vertically-hung neon and bulb-light sign for the “Winter Garden” were part of the original design. The façade appears to have been carefully painted with faux marble and stone finishes by c.1937. No intact original interior theater features, finishes or public spaces remain.

Detail for 1513 3rd AVE / Parcel ID 1975700450 / Inv #

Status: Yes - Inventory
Classication: Building District Status:
Cladding(s): Concrete Foundation(s): Concrete - Poured
Roof Type(s): Flat with Parapet Roof Material(s): Unknown
Building Type: Recreation and Culture - Theater Plan: Rectangular
Structural System: Concrete - Poured No. of Stories: three
Unit Theme(s): Entertainment/Recreation
Changes to Windows: Extensive
Changes to Original Cladding: Slight
Changes to Plan: Intact
Storefront: Extensive
Major Bibliographic References
City of Seattle DCLU Microfilm Records.
King County Property Record Card (c. 1938-1972), Washington State Archives.
"he First Picture Palace" Seattle Times, April 11, 1982.

Photo collection for 1513 3rd AVE / Parcel ID 1975700450 / Inv #

Photo taken May 23, 2006
App v2.0.1.0