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This Month in History: The Broadway Theatre that could have been

Image: Seattle Times, May 30, 1925

In May of 1925, Claude Jensen and John G Von Herberg, partners in the Greater Theatres Company, announced plans to build a sprawling and palatial play and motion picture house on the entire westside block of Broadway between Harrison and Republican. This is where Broadway Market, currently the home of Urban Outfitters and QFC, is located today. Designed by the nationally renowned theatre architect Benjamin Marcus Priteca and his associate Frederick J Peters, it boasted the following features:

“...the stately main entrance toward the southern end of the building, with a driveway on its immediate right, opening upon a wide open court and sunken gardens… another street entrance on the Republican Street side will afford facilities for ample motor car parking… The playhouse itself will seat 1,800 [Equal to Moore Theatre]… Luxurious retiring and rest rooms, the most elaborate and modern lighting, refrigeration, heating and ventilating systems, spacious opera chairs.. It is entirely possible that it will be operated as a first run theatre--that is, offering all its entertainments before they are seen elsewhere in Greater Seattle.”

This “pleasure palace” had a price tag of $500,000 (worth over $7M today) and better yet, they even planned to finish it in under 6 months. However, it wasn’t meant to be, a city ordinance called for the widening of Broadway from 59 to 80 feet leaving Jensen and Von Herberg without a sufficient amount of depth to their property to complete their plans. They tried to fight the ordinance, but ultimately abandoned their plans and rented the property out to a few businessmen who proposed to build the Broadway Market there instead. Broadway Market opened in September of 1928 and remains to this day. You can read more about the history of Broadway Market in this article written by Rob Ketcherside.

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