Coliseum Theatre

Present Day Photo by Joe Mabel via

I’ve made my home in beautiful Seattle, Washington and truly it’s the most magical place. I love traveling more than anything and want nothing more on this earth than to travel far and wide. But my home base? That will always be Seattle. I absolutely love it here. There are so many amazing places that we walk by every day without much thought that are filled with such history.

Take, for instance, the downtown Seattle Banana Republic store on 5th and Pine. Before I was a teacher, I worked for Gap, Inc. for ten years. I got an engraved watch when I left for my years of service to the company. Although the retail life can be a drain, there was so much I loved about it. I loved being around all of the clothes, new trends, seeing styles come right out of the shipment box and making them look beautiful on the sales floor for customers. I loved working with people to help them find the perfect outfit for that date, interview, wedding, or just a pick-me-up on an exhaustive Friday. Clearly I enjoy shopping, so helping people shop is pretty fun, too. In the years that I worked for Banana Republic, I knew some of the history behind our building, but never really dug deep until last night.

The building at 5th Avenue and Pike Street is known as the Coliseum Theatre building. It was built in 1916 and was the first theater in Seattle build specifically to show movies. Since they showed silent films at the time, the Coliseum boasted the largest in-house orchestra on the West Coast, featuring all Russian musicians, which was a big draw at the time. Decidedly Neo-Classical in style, the building was adorned with ornate architectural features in pristine white plaster. The theater continued to adapt to the times both in technology and appearance and served as a first-run movie theater well into the 1970s, until it was shut down due to decreasing profits. It sat vacant, dilapidated and falling apart throughout the 1980s and ’90s. In 1995 Gap, Inc. took ownership of the property and completely gutted it inside, save for several refurbished original details like some of the ornate plaster moldings, the big original clock, and some gorgeous lighting fixtures seen throughout the store. The dome in the photograph at the top was actually removed long before Gap, Inc. bought the Coliseum to make way for an electric movie marquee. The theater is still there, up in the rafters above where shoppers are searching out their next favorite sweaters and skirts. For many years some of the original theater seats were reupholstered and put in the fitting rooms, a quirky detail that remained until a few years ago when the store underwent another remodel.

So next time rooting through the sale section at Banana Republic, remember the history of this amazing building. The decades of films enjoyed here by countless movie-goers. Call me a sap, but I love deep thoughts like that.