Pacific Coast Architecture Database (PCAD)


Majestic Theatre, Downtown, Seattle, WA

ID: 18403
Alt. Name: Empress Theatre, Downtown, Seattle, WA
Palace Hippodrome Theatre, Downtown, Seattle, WA
Construction Date: Start Date: 1909
End Date: 1909
Notes: Seattle had two entertainment facilities called the "Hippodrome" between c. 1916-1925. The Metropolitan Building Company built a low, large-scale, multi-purpose building at 5th Avenue and University Street called the Hippodrome by 1912. It served as a dance hall and as a space for banquets, meetings or conventions. Located on the southeast corner of 2nd Avenue and Spring Street, this "Palace Hippodrome," (known colloquially as the "Palace Hip," to differentiate it from the dance hall), served as an active performance spot for live theatre in the city, part of the Ackerman and Harris Hippodrome vaudeville circuit active from the Dakotas to the Pacific Coast. The Palace Hippdrome stood next door to the north of the Leary Building (also known as the Seattle National Bank Building), and had a Style 135B Wurlitzer, opus #280, organ installed in 1920 and removed in 1930. The Hippodrome stage had a 36-foot proscenium span, wall-to-wall span of 75 feet, height of 75 feet, depth of 27 feet, and had 53 sets of backstage lines. The Hippodrome had showers for performers and 8 dressing rooms. It offered five shows on Sunday, four or five shows Saturday and three shows daily. Acts changed on Sunday and Thursday for four or three-day runs, respectively. The stage opened at 10 AM; matinees commenced at 3:00 PM and the first evening shows began at 6:45 PM. The stage entrance was located three doors from the public entrance next to the United Cigar Store. (See Herbert Lloyd, Vaudeville Trails Thru the West, [Philadelphia: Herbert Lloyd, 1919], p. 184.)
Demolition Note: Demolished; the Palace Hippodrome was razed in 1981.
Building History: New York Tammany Hall politician Timothy D. Sullivan (1862-1913) and Seattle theatre impresario John Considine (1868–1943) operated a notable vaudeville circuit in 1909, when this theatre, the Majestic, opened. Considine conceived and built the Majestic Theatre in a startling five months, its design directed by the architect Edwin W. Houghton (1856-1927). Opening on 08/30/1909, it remained the Majestic only a short time. On 11/06/1910, the Majestic presented a bill of six acts: including Jack Gardner (1876-1929, a singer and comedian, who often performed in black face), Eckhoff-and Gordon (musicians), Comiques (acrobats), Brown and Mills (song and dance), Yeoman (a German jester), and the Tennis Trio (jugglers). Admission cost 10 and 20 cents, with matinee performances daily. At this time, Seattle's main vaudeville venues were the Majestic, Star #2, Pantages #1 and Orpheum #4. The Lois Theatre (run by Pantages) and the Alhambra #2 (operated by Russell and Drew) staged dramatic performances. (See Seattle Times, 11/06/1910, p. 16.) In 1911, Sullivan and Considine renamed it the "Empress Theatre" and it operated it as such for five years. Following the odd death of Sullivan in 1913 (he was hit by a train under suspicious circumstances), the Sullivan and Considine circuit disbanded, and the Empress was transformed into the Palace Hippodrome in 1916. The Palace Hippodrome was operated by the Ackerman and Harris Hippodrome vaudeville circuit, what the Seattle Times called "a cheaper grade of vaudeville, then known as the Hippodrome vaudeville." (See "Palace Hip, Famous Old Theatre, to Become Garage," Seattle Times, 08/22/1930.) In 1919, the Palace Hippodrome was one of three vaudeville performance venues listed in the directory, Vaudeville Trails Thru the West, along with the Moore Theatre (in 1919 part of the Orpheum vaudeville circuit) and the Pantages Theatre (part of the Seattle-founded Pantages circuit). According to this guidebook, the manager was Joseph Muller. (See Herbert Lloyd, Vaudeville Trails Thru the West, [Philadelphia: Herbert Lloyd, 1919], p. 184.) By 1921, the Loews chain had a financial interest in the Palace Hip. The theatre closed in 09/1929, a harbinger of vaudeville's nationwide demise with the introduction of motion picture "talkies." The Seattle Time eulogized vaudeville in 1930: ""Another of Seattle's famous old playhouses is passing. The Palace Hip built twenty-one years ago and for a long period one of the most popular theatres in the Northwest, is being converted into a garage. The heyday of vaudeville is over and with it into history fades one of its former strongholds." (See "Palace Hip, Famous Old Theatre, to Become Garage," Seattle Times, 08/22/1930.) In 1930, its owners gutted the theatre, turning the top two floors into a parking garage. The first floor street frontage on 2nd Avenue continued to house four retail shops. The Donut Corner operated in the corner storefront by the 1960s. The end came in 1981 with its demolition, making room for a large skyscraper.
Structure Size: Number of Floors: 3
Demolition Date: 1981-01-01
Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres
Locations: Structure:
Seattle, WA
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Exterior view of the Palace Hippodrome Theatre recycled as a parking garage, Seattle, 1981; from Dorpat Sherrard Lomont, photo by Lawton Gowey

Exterior view of the Palace Hippodrome Theatre, Seattle, 1921; from Dorpat Sherrard Lomont

Exterior view of the Palace Hippodrome Theatre, Seattle, c. 1930; from the Puget Sound Theatre Organ Society (PSTOS)