A Spectacular Restoration…
The Columbia Theatre recently completed the final leg of a thirty-year-long journey from the shadow of a wrecking ball to a newly-restored, 800 seat state-of-the-art performance hall. The story of its saving is a melodrama worthy of the silent films shown in the first years of the Columbia’s life. It goes like this:
On Saturday, June 30, 1979 The Daily News prematurely announced the closure and imminent demolition of the Columbia Theatre with a photo spread and the caption: “Goodbye Columbia.” It was the final look inside the venerable old theatre that time seemed to have passed by. A few more months of wrangling and its fate was sealed. The Columbia would be demolished and a new multiplex cinema would be erected in its place.
In May, 1980 crews and equipment were moved into an adjacent parking lot to prepare the four story building for demolition. The building fixtures were to be stripped and sold and significant prep work work was to begin on Monday, May 19th.
Now, let’s stop a moment and consider that over the years there have been many historical theatres reduced to rubble across our country. The few that remain are a testament to a grand era of entertainment that had its zenith in 1925, the year the Columbia Theatre opened its doors. Of the countless stories of last minute reprieves from demolition, none can claim a more spectacular reprieve than our Columbia Theatre – saved by a volcano!
The eruption of Mt. Saint Helens on May 18, 1980, halted demolition plans as equipment was diverted to assist in the recovery effort. In the midst of this international drama the theatre was all but forgotten. However, when the dust settled and the mountain went cold again, the Columbia still stood like an orphan waiting to be adopted. And she was. Through the tireless effort of a group of citizens led by Virginia Rubin, the Columbia Theater Task Force, Inc. was formed with the purpose: “To Restore the Columbia Theater as a Regional Performing Arts Center.”
When the “Crown Jewel of Southwest Washington” re-opened in February 2010 it concluded a remarkable journey of survival that leaves it standing taller as a newly-restored, state-of-the-art facility ready to serve the community of Southwest Washington for generations to come.
It’s your Columbia Theatre. Don’t miss a moment!