Liberty Theatre

54 East Main Street,
Walla Walla, WA 99362

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 6, 2013 at 3:34 pm

The October 6, 1917, issue of The Moving Picture World gave the opening date of the American Theatre as August 25:

“Big Publicity for Opening of American Theater.

“Walla Walla, Wash.— When A. W. Eiler opened the new American theater on August 25 the entire motion picture section of the leading paper of the town was devoted to his house. The six pages which made up this section had nothing on them that did not pertain to the American theater. The feature of the opening day was Norma Talmadge in "The Law of Compensation,” handled by the De Luxe Feature Film Company of Seattle.“

Gooper on March 28, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Thanks Joe, for the perceptive background information. I visited the site this past weekend, and indeed, the first thing I thought was: Jugendstil. The facade would be perfectly at home in, say, Riga, Latvia – which I visited not long ago.

Similarly, I think the facade looks as if it could have been designed by the noteworthy Arts & Crafts architect Halsey Ricardo, whose spectacular Debenham House in London (1906) is encased in innovative terracotta and glazed tile work.

There is access to the Liberty’s former balcony lobby, which underwent an obvious Art Deco makeover. There are touches of ‘Radio City Moderne’ to be found, but not much else.

I fully agree that if the facade had to be classified as just one style, it would be Art Nouveau.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 5, 2011 at 5:32 am

The NRHP has another typo in its information, pasted in lostmemory’s comment of July 31, 2005. The names of the architects were Osterman and Siebert, not Osreman and Siebert.

That the Liberty Theatre should have a somewhat Rhinelandish look is not surprising. Architect Henry Osterman was born near Essen, Germany, in 1862, and only arrived in the United States in 1889. He was a builder before setting himself up as an architect, and was largely self-taught. He practiced on his own until 1912, when he formed his partnership with Victor Siebert, then a recent graduate of the Boston School of Technology.

Osterman probably maintained considerable contact with Germany, to which his three brothers had all returned by 1896. He most likely read German publications and kept up with the stylistic trends of the old country.

I detect in the Liberty’s unusual design strong hints of the Jugendstil, the German form of Art Nouveau which flourished in the late 19th-early 20th century. We could do worse than to classify this theater as Art Nouveau. I think Tudor Revival is certainly less appropriate. The building doesn’t really have much of the Tudor about it.

kencmcintyre on January 9, 2010 at 6:33 am

Here is a December 1952 ad from the Walla Walla Union-Bullletin:

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on May 21, 2009 at 6:55 pm

Here are some 1984 photos:




Lost Memory
Lost Memory on October 29, 2006 at 3:02 pm

This website has photos of the former Liberty theater.

kencmcintyre on October 24, 2006 at 12:49 pm

“Fantastic Voyage” was playing at the Liberty in 1967:

Lost Memory
Lost Memory on July 31, 2005 at 8:39 am

From the Walla Walla Chamber of Commerce:

“Liberty Theater-
The Bon Marche anchors Downtown Walla Walla’s vibrant and eclectic retail district. The department store is housed in the historic building that originally opened in 1917 as the American Theatre, later renamed the Liberty Theater, when admission was less than 25 cents. Today’s visitors still admire the vintage movie house’s features that include an old-fashioned candy counter, stained-glass windows and other touches from the early 1900’s. A tablet on the Main Street theater marks the site of the second Fort Walla Walla, established by Lieutenant Colonel Edward J. Steptoe in 1856. Today, the building houses the Bon Marche department store”.

The address for this theater was:
54 East Main Street
Walla Walla, WA 99362

Also, the 1991 Architectural Award Grand Prize went to The Liberty Theater, 54 E. Main, William Pancake, contractor, for restoration & renovation of historic theater. And this building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

Liberty Theater (added 1993 – Building – #93000358)
Also known as American Theater
50 E. Main St., Walla Walla
Historic Significance: Event, Architecture/Engineering
Architect, builder, or engineer: Osreman, Henry, Siebert, Victor et al.
Architectural Style: Bungalow/Craftsman, Moderne
Area of Significance: Entertainment/Recreation, Architecture
Period of Significance: 1900-1924, 1925-1949
Owner: Private
Historic Function: Recreation And Culture
Historic Sub-function: Theater
Current Function: Commerce/Trade
Current Sub-function: Department Store