Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more depressing than Betty White not making it to her 100th…then today (4 January) this happened to the Guild 45th Theatre:
The end, or more accurately, the latest low point in a long and steady decline for the Guild 45th since it closed “for renovation” in 2017, came unexpectedly for most of us in the neighborhood. While it had sat dark, forlorn, and tagged for quite some time, there was no advance (public) notice of a pending demolition activity. I was running errands and drove past this afternoon and uttered an expletive, before turning around to take some pics.
As recently as the post-Christmas snowstorm last week, I had taken this snapshot of the marquee:
Chatter on the Wallingford Facebook page suggested that a demolition permit was in place, though Wallyhood has not confirmed that. The sign was reportedly taken down for safety reasons and neighbor Octopus Bar owner was able to salvage some of it. There is also word that the owners are interested in engaging with the community on the new building(s), but there are no known plans for the property.
In the years since the theatre showed its last film, the owners of the building had been vague about those renovation plans, or any future plans, for that matter. Some of us retained the completely unsupported hope that the old movie house would be saved by some wealthy tech million- or billion-aire, but apparently getting William Shatner to the edge of space was a higher priority. And so the Guild 45th waited, and ultimately, succumbed.
The theatre we know as the Guild 45th had its beginnings in either 1919, or 1921, depending on your historical source. The latter date is cited by Paul Dorpat & Jean Sherrard’s Seattle Now-and-Then site, which is (for some of us, anyway) local gospel. There is agreement that it originally was called, of all things: the Paramount (the majestic old place we currently know as the Paramount did not open until 1928, and then, as the Seattle Theatre)! Along the way, our 500-seat neighborhood venue was renamed the 45th Street Theater (1933), not becoming the Guild 45th until around 1955. According to Dorpat/Sherrard, it was that incarnation of the theatre that began to emphasize foreign films (Dorpat writes, “The anxieties of some of the Guild 45ths neighbors over its bearded clientele were unfounded)”, and in 1957 added a cafe that might might considered one of the first coffee houses in Seattle, with an espresso machine imported from…California.
There are fabulous old photos of the theatre, anchored in time by the films advertised on the marquee. For me, it illustrates how the place was a focal point for the Wallingford business district for such a long time.
Personally, I came to Wallingford well after the real heyday of the Guild 45th. I saw movies there, but by that time the place had grown pretty dingy, its floors uneven and sticky. But its bright marquee was something of a beacon to those of us who called the neighborhood home. When it went dim several years ago, a big part of Wallingford’s heart faded as well.
Welcome to the future.
While I acknowledge those of you lamenting the loss of the history of the neighborhood, the reality of the matter is that the property has been increasingly an eyesore and a scourge to the neighborhood in the most prime location on 45th Street. I really hope that someone steps and redevelops the property into something useful and less of a neighborhood detraction.
Rip it down. It’s a mold-infested husk and a squatter magnet. Next!
Really nice article Gary, good job! I expect the scenario around the theater was like the Onion says:
I love that Onion article, Eric!
I’ve lived in the neighborhood for “only” a decade, so maybe I don’t have as much history with the theater has others who’ve been here longer. But having been to the theater a few times before they closed up shop in 2017, the main things that stick out to me are:
-The floors. Literally they stick out to me because they were so sticky and gross. The chairs weren’t much better. This theater was horribly neglected for years before they closed in 2017, and it’s why I only went there a few times total during the many years I’ve lived here for. I’d sadly rather go to the AMC up 45th or head to Northgate
-Their choices of what to show. I distinctly remember how disgusted I felt when this theater chose to show the anti-vax propaganda film “Vaxxed”, by the disgraced fraudster Andrew Wakefield, who is directly responsible for so much of the anti-vaccine propaganda we see now. That was the final straw for me, and I never again went back to the theater.
I’m sad for those for whom this theater meant a lot, but it’s been decaying for much longer than the 5 years since they closed up shop.