500 Pike Street,
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The Coliseum opened in 1916 as Seattle’s first theater built specifically for motion pictures. Priteca would later go on to design the Paramount in Seattle over a decade later.
Built for the Pantages chain, the Coliseum was monumentally neoclassical, with its gleaming white terra cotta facade, and its distinctive half-dome like marquee, which was crowned by a small domed temple, all brilliantly illuminated by lights, looking like an ancient imperial monument on Pike Street.
The interior was equally stunning, with ornate plasterwork, including busts of goddess, gargoyles and a huge lion’s head over the proscenium arch. The lobby featured imported Italian marble, lighting fixtures designed by Priteca himself, and a huge chandelier. In keeping with the Roman theme, mosaics decorated the lounges and foyer floors.
The Coliseum operated as a first run house until the late 1970s, when it was forced to shut down due to decreasing business. It sat vacant and falling apart through the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, until 1995, when the delapidated Coliseum was acquired by the Banana Republic clothing store chain, and completely gutted inside, though some of its still-beautiful plasterwork was retained and cleaned and can be seen throughout the store.
The exterior was somewhat altered, its original half-dome shaped marquee having long been removed, and its replacement also being removed, in favor of a modern glass and steel awning over the main entrance. The terra cotta has been cleaned and is now dramatically illuminated at night, picking up its details, such as the medallions and floral patterns.
The Coliseum is today a great example of historic preservation and adaptive reuse.
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