Saving Our State's Historic Theaters
Travel the Main Street of any American town and a theater will likely be there, anchoring the street and beckoning residents and visitors alike to lose themselves for a time in another world. Whether they are architectural masterpieces or modest storefronts with a marquee, they are essential to economic development and maintaining community character.
Eighty operating historic theaters remain in Washington. They are scattered in both small towns and urban neighborhoods. In fact, 25% of the theaters are located in communities with a population of under 5,000, and nearly 56% are in communities under 50,000. Most are owned and managed by individuals. As businesses, they contribute local economies in purchasing goods and products, employing people, and paying taxes. As venues for performances and film, they support an arts economy that ripples far beyond individual artists to include construction workers, graphic designers, electricians, and many other trades and services. Additionally, historic theaters are indispensable assets in developing cultural tourism—the fastest growing segment of the tourism market.
Raise your voice
In the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis, historic theaters across Washington State need support now more than ever. In acknowledgment of this, Governor Jay Inslee included in his proposed capital budget $515,000 to create a Historic Theater Grant Program. The Washington Trust is in strong support of this proposal. In fact, we believe that this program will be such an important investment in our local economies and historic downtowns that we are requesting that the legislature provide $1 million for this program.
Now that the state legislature is in session, it’s time to fight for our historic theaters! Make your voice heard. Send an email to your legislators in support of the creation of the Historic Theater Grant Program using our new interactive form, which sends your message to the appropriate representatives when you put in your street address. Your email will be signed with your name and city. Feel free to add your own personalized message or use our template.
Hear from Larry Hibbard, owner of the historic Ruby Theater in Chelan, about why he supports the creation of a new Historic Theater Grant Program under the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation.
See our Historic Theater Grant Program one-page info sheet for more details on the proposed grant program, and share it with your network!
DAHP’s request for state funding to establish the Historic Theater Grant Program is based on a 2008 statewide survey and physical needs assessment conducted by Artifacts Consulting which profiles Washington State’s 80 extant historic theaters. Check out the survey for more information!
Other Capital Grants Advocacy
The Washington Trust is working with legislators and other key stakeholders to advocate for the support of a number of important capital grant programs (historic barns, courthouses, cemeteries, and Main Streets). Learn more about our advocacy and how you can help by contacting your legislators.