Liberty Theater

115 E. 3rd Street,
Wapato, WA 98951

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Dating from 1920, and remodeled in 1946, this once abandoned theater has a rather plain facade, but a very nice marquee. The vertical portion is rounded at the back, so it looks backwards. The horizontal portion is covered in narrow horizontal stripes, and I’m not sure where movie titles would have been displayed. At some point, the street level got covered in that nasty concrete with little pebbles stuck in it. In 2004, the theater looked pretty shabby, but salvageable.

By 2008, it had re-opened as a performing arts center.

Contributed by Seth Gaines

Recent comments (view all 4 comments)

divinehammer
divinehammer on August 15, 2007 at 4:11 pm

The Liberty is now owned by a non-profit organization and is planning a restoration! I’ll try to submit some photos of the progress on it!

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on April 21, 2009 at 7:57 pm

An encomium from the Liberty Theatre was published in an ad for the American Seating Company in the June 1, 1935, issue of Boxoffice. The writer praised the new seats the theater had recently installed, crediting them with an increase in patronage. Despite the modern front seen in the photos, I think the house must have been fairly old to have been getting new seats installed in 1935. The facade remodeling probably took place sometime later.

Boxoffice contains many references to the Liberty, operated for many years by P.A. Volkman. In 1939, Volkman built a second theater in Wapato, acting as his own designer. He named the new house the Dickon Theatre, combining the names of his two sons, Dick and Don. There’s a (rather belated) photo of it in the November 16, 1946, issue of Boxoffice.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 31, 2009 at 9:25 pm

According to an item in Boxoffice of March 30, 1957, Paul Volkman took over operation of the Liberty Theatre from his parents in 1933 and operated it until 1957. The purchaser in 1957 was C.A. Dunn. However, a February 21, 1953, Boxoffice obituary of Joseph Blaschke said the Blaschke had built the Liberty in 1920 and had run it until turning it over to his grandson in October, 1933.

The 1957 item mentioned that Volkman had earlier rebuilt and remodeled the Liberty. This rebuilding was covered in an October 7, 1946, Boxoffice article which said that Volkman was then in the process of rebuilding the house. The project was to include the addition of a 400-seat section of stadium seating. The wording of the article is imprecise, but the rebuilt Liberty was apparently to have 775 seats.

The article said that Paul Volkman was trained in architecture and had taught architectural drawing at the high school level, and that he had drawn the plans for the rebuilding of the Liberty, as he had drawn the plans for his second theater at Wapato, the Dickon, in 1939.

KenLayton
KenLayton on October 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Corrected address for this theater is 116 E. Third St, Wapato, Wa. 98951. Google street view should then be correct.

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