(Wallyhood welcomes Julie Martin, the first of a stream of new writers you’ll be meeting in the coming weeks.)
At night, the bright blaze of the Guild 45th marquee can make you feel like you’re standing in the middle of downtown, instead of the center of little Wallingford. As a teenager growing up in the neighborhood, it was especially great to have such a majestic movie house in walking distance. My best friend and I lived on opposite sides 45th and met in the middle for shows.
In the years since, we have grown into families and homes of our own and the Guild 45th has continued to enchant audiences under the lights. Though, it’s a little harder to keep up appearances when you’re 95 years old. Her theatre seating is rather shopworn, the plaster exterior could use a paint refresh, and that marquee needs a few pieces put back together from a recent accident. But, there may be something new in store soon for the Guild.
On March 17th, the Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board announced that it will consider nomination of the Guild 45th Theater for Landmark status on Wednesday, April 6th at 3:30PM. The public (that’s you!) is invited to submit comments based on the landmark designation standards and attend this meeting (See details here). The nomination was submitted by the current owner, Landmark Theatres of Los Angeles. While the company has made no formal statement or indication of plans, a landmark nomination can signal when an owner plans to sell or redevelop the property.
According to this recent article in the Puget Sound Business Journal:
Landmark Theatres has been selling or giving up leases on some properties in Seattle, though some remain movie houses. A Seattle real estate developer bought one Landmark property on Capitol Hill, the Harvard Exit, and is converting it to office space and a restaurant.
The Seattle International Film Festival now operates two former Landmark theaters — the Uptown in Lower Queen Anne and the Egyptian on Capitol Hill.
In the Seattle area, Landmark still operates the Crest in Shoreline, the Seven Gables in the University District and the Guild 45th.
The Guild 45th was originally built as the “The Paramount Theatre” in 1920-21 and was capable of hosting live performances as well as motion pictures, which were still silent films at that time. Over the years, the building saw a number of renovations and modifications, including work done by architect Henry Bittman who built and resided in an illustrious home in the Wallingford neighborhood. The name changed to the “45th Street Theatre” after a dispute with a new theatre downtown of the same name and eventually in 1957, owner Robert S. Clark rebranded it “The Guild 45th” to support his new “arthouse policy.”
The Guild 45th Landmark Nomination prepared by Architectural Historian, Christopher J. Hetzel of ICF International, details the rich history of the theatre and its important role in the Wallingford community. In the early years, the theatre hosted not only films, but rallies for political candidates, live concerts and community meetings. During the Depression, the movie house used promotions to get people in the door such as raffling off bags of groceries.
I walked through the drizzle this weekend on 45th street and witnessed people with large machinery taking down an old tree that had threatened to topple onto the theatre and surrounding buildings during the recent rains. Removing the drooping branches blasts even more light onto this building begging for revitalization. I wonder how our children will know this neighborhood beacon when they are eventually old enough to walk to 45th street by themselves. I hope you will join me on April 6th to get a glimpse.