Tuxedos, red carpets, antique cars—the scene at Saturday's grand reopening of the 1931 Fox Theatre in Spokane, Wash., was a scene from old Hollywood.
"It was a great party," says Joanne Moyer, National Trust advisor. "We've had a real renaissance in downtown Spokane."
Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong once performed at the art deco theater, designed by Robert Reamer.
Seven years ago, the National Register-listed theater, along with its neighborhood, had become shabby, and it was slated to be torn down for a parking lot. "The community rallied to provide the initial funds to buy the building," Moyer says.
After a $31 million restoration, the building has reopened as the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, after the father of Spokane resident Myrtle Woldson, whose early $3 million donation rescued the building. The project later used new-market tax credits and $8 million in state tax credits. In addition, Save America's Treasures, a public-private partnership between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Park Service, awarded the Fox a matching grant of $246,919 in 2004.
In June 2006, the National Trust's Western Office gave a $5,000 grant to support the production of design and engineering drawings of the theater's north and south entrance marquees.
During the restoration, the theater's murals were uncovered and restored and workers installed a new real-time technology that only 20 other performing-arts centers use.
"With this technology, a composer in China can see and hear her symphony performed in actual-time and offer comments from Beijing during rehearsals," Brenda Nienhouse, executive director of the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox and Spokane Symphony, said in a statement.