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Mt. Baker Theatre - 2/12 Wurlitzer, Style 215 (original)
Bellingham, Washington
104 North Commerical
Organ installation timeframe: 1927 - present
 
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Style 215 console
 
From a watercolor by Brian Griffin The Mt. Baker Theatre opened as part of the Fox chain and featured silent films (with organ accompaniment), Vaudeville and local stage acts. The house opened on April 29, 1927 and has remained in constant use to the present time. Seating capacity is 1,800 with the main floor and large balcony. The architect was Robert C. Reamer. The opening organist was Joy Brown. Eddie Clifford played for the next six years from 1927 to 1932.
 
Several years ago the theatre was designated a "National Historical Monument". This was the beginning of a new life for the house, now owned by the City of Bellingham. The theatre has been completely restored: new carpet, new paint, new seats and new lighting for stage work.
 
As part of the restoration, $60,000 has been spent on the organ.
 
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Mt. Baker Theatre stage, August 28, 2005.
 
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Main entrance, c. 1937. Photo, courtesy Jeff Fox.
 
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Photo courtesy William G. Chapman, 2006
 
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Main entrance
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Ticket booth
 
Some notes about the renovations of the Mount Baker Theatre:
 

  • Original Moorish Design has been maintained throughout
  • Interior has been entirely refinished including walls and carpet
  • All seats have been removed, refinished, re-upholstered and re-installed
  • Stage has been revamped and can now handle opera or the largest of symphony orchestras
  • 6 or 7 rows of seats, which had been removed years ago to permit viewing of a wide screen, have been reinstalled

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    Ornate, mirror-back lobby chairs
     
    Organ restoration projects include: re-leathering, adding a PostHorn and second Flute rank, unifying the Tibia properly and adjusting the shutters to open fully. With four sets of shutters for each chamber, the instrument really speaks out!
     
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    Lobby mezzanine with decorated columns and exposed beams
     
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    LeRoy Kastner (1907-1999)
    The wonderful condition of the Mt. Baker Theatre can largely be attributed to the wise stewardship of LeRoy Kastner. Mr. Kastner was Manager of the Mt. Baker from 1951-1974 & 1978-1986.
     
    As a young boy, LeRoy broke into the theatre business playing the cornet in the small orchestra at the Dream Theatre on Holly Street. He later worked as custodian at the American Theatre before getting into management. In the 1950's the Fox Evergreen chain operated both the American and Mt. Baker Theatres and Kastner was manager at both houses until the American was demolished in the Spring, 1959.
     
    Interestingly, Kastner's brother Clifford was janitor at both theatres and stayed on at the Mt. Baker until the mid-1970's. According to patrons, "you could eat off the floor in a Kastner theatre."
     
    It was LeRoy Kastner who saved the Mt. Baker from the Scorus Brothers attempts at redecorating in the late 40's. Only the carpet was replaced along with the addition of a modern concession stand and the lobby walls being painted pink. The theatre itself was not touched. Kastner also was instrumental in letting people come in and play the organ at any time. The organ got lots of use from his gratuity.
     
    Kastner retired in 1974 but when the theatre came under Canadian ownership in the mid-1980's, the new owners hired Kastner to operate the house. There has never been another manager like him and he is sorely missed by everyone associated with the Mt. Baker Theatre.
     
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    Auditorium, left
     
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    Elaborate Moorish style ceiling dome and chandelier
     
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    Auditorium, right
     
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    One of two ornate chandeliers in the balcony
     
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    Main chamber showing two of the four sets of swell shades
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    Bellingham organist Jeff Fox. Clarinet rank in the foreground.
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    Solo chamber showing Kinura and Tuba. Tibia in the background.
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    Kinura, Tuba and Orchestral Oboe
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    Mt. Baker Theatre console, c.1963
    The Mt. Baker Wurlitzer is an original Style 215 two-manual Wurlitzer, opus 1558. This two-chamber Wurlitzer was the only one of the West Coast Theatre chain not to go to a California location.
     
    The console is raised to stage level by means of a hydraulic lift installed by Otis Elevator. When originally installed in 1927, the lift had limited travel due to a solid mass of rock under that portion of the building.

    This elevator is still in use today. The extended stage apron can be opened to allow the console to rise to stage level.
     
    This instrument is maintained by the Mount Baker Theatre Organ Society, membership of approximately one hundred residents of Northwest Washington and British Columbia, Canada. The group presents an organ concert once each month.
     
    Famous theatre organist Jesse Crawford played the organ many years ago. More recently, Walter Strony has been a concert artist. He commented that it was one of the finest two-manual Wurlitzers he has played.
     
    The Mt. Baker Wurlitzer is one of only four remaining original instruments in the Pacific Northwest being routinely used as intended in a theatre.
    Photo by Galen Biery, 1962
    Theatre interior showing proscenium, Wurlitzer console and organ grills, c.1962
     
    Photo by J. Wilbur Sandison, 1930
    Theatre lobby, c.1930
     
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    Left (Main) organ grill
     
    Stop List (taken from console, May 2001)
     
    Two manuals, 12 ranks
    PEDAL
    16 Tuba Profunda
    16 Diaphone
    16 Bourdon
      8 Stag Horn
      8 Harmonic Tuba
      8 Diaphonic Diapason
      8 Tibia Clausa
      8 Clarinet
      8 Cello
      8 Flute
      8 Solo to Pedal
     
    Pedal traps
      Bass Drum
      Triangle
      Crash Cymbal
      Cymbals
     

    Tremulants
      Main
      Solo
      Vox
      Tuba
      Tibia
     

    Swell Shoes
      Main
      Solo
     

      Celeste Off
    ACCOMP
      8 Post Horn
      8 Harmonic Tuba
      8 Diaphonic Diapason
      8 Tibia Clausa
      8 Clarinet
      8 Orchestral Oboe
      8 Viol Celeste
      8 Concert Flute
      8 Vox Humana
      4 Octave Celeste
      4 Flute
      4 Vox Humana
      2-2/3 Twelfth
      2 Piccolo
    16 Sub Harp
      Harp
      Marimba
      Chrysoglott
     
    Accomp traps
      Snare Drum
      Tambourine
      Castanets
      Chinese Block
      Traps to Pedal
     
    Second Touch
      8 Post Horn
      8 Tuba
      Xylophone
      Kettle Drum
    SOLO
    16 Post Horn (Ten C)
    16 Tuba Profunda
    16 Tibia Clausa (Ten C)
    16 Bourdon
    16 Vox Humana (Ten C)
      8 Post Horn
      8 Harmonic Tuba
      8 Diaphonic Diapason
      8 Tibia Clausa
      8 Clarinet
      8 Orchestral Oboe
      8 Kinura
      8 Viol Celeste
      8 Concert Flute
      8 Vox Humana
      5-1/3 Tibia Clausa
      4 Harmonic Clarion
      4 Octave
      4 Tibia Clausa
      4 Octave Celeste
      4 Flute
      2-2/3 Tibia
      2-2/3 Twelfth
      2 Tibia
      2 Fifteenth
      2 Piccolo
      1-3/5 Tibia
      1-3/5 Tierce
      1 Tibia
      Harp
      Marimba
      Chrysoglott
    16 Solo Sub Octave
      4 Solo Octave
     
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    Solo percussions
      Sleigh Bells
      Xylophone
      Glock 1
      Glock 2
      Orchestra Bells
      Chimes
     
    Second Touch
    16 Post Horn
    16 Tuba
      8 Post Horn
     


     
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    Mt. Baker Theatre features Gunnar Anderson at the console daily
    Excerpt from The Console magazine, September 1977 (v15, No 9, pp3):
     
    One of the few theatre pipe organs still heard daily in a motion picture theatre is the Wurlitzer at the Mt. Baker Theatre, Bellingham, Washington. Organist Gunnar Anderson plays for 15 or more minutes during intermissions every evening.

    Mt. Baker Theatre To Become Arts Center
    Excerpt from The Console magazine, February 1984 (v23, No 2, pp3):
     
    Another operating movie palace will cease operations March 1. Its' Wurlitzer pipe organ will no longer be heard in daily evening pre-show recitals -- but it will continue to be heard whenever the theatre is open. And it will be open as a performing arts center. The Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham, Washington is slated to undergo a rehabilitation project to begin in 1985.
     
    The drive to acquire and restore the theatre received help during late January from the National Endowment for the Arts with a grant of $20,000. This will be matched by local cash and volunteer work on the theatre to help finance design and planning for general rehabilitation and restoration of the theatre along with technical upgrading of lighting and sound systems.
     
    Owners of the building will receive $500,000 for it.
     
    Films and some non-performing arts events are being lined up for the fall. Jim Zervas, a local architect, has been spearheading the drive to keep the theatre standing. Fortunately, according to Jeffery A. Fox, who has been playing the Wurlitzer, the present Canadian owners have maintained the theatre -- installing a new roof, new boiler, new carpet, etc. They also had some of the original lobby furniture refinished and restored the concession stand.
     
    The organ, a Style 215, 2m/10r, is kept in excellent condition by Bob White of Seattle. The Peace Arch Organ Society has voted to purchase heaters for the chambers and donate them to the theatre. "We hope to have the water-powered Otis elevator which the console rides to overture position repaired sometime this year," he added.
     

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    Jeff Fox, Doris Miller & Gunnar Anderson
    April 28, 1983 - Mt. Baker Theatre 56th Anniversary concert:
    Jeffrey Fox, organist and program chair. Doris Miller, Vancouver, B.C. silent movie organist (Princess, Capitol Theatres) played overture. Gunnar Anderson (Mt. Baker Theatre opening night relief organist) played the feature film.



    Mt. Baker Theatre, Grand Opening 1927
     
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    Mt. Baker Theatre, 1927
     
    Photo by J. Wilbur Sandison, 1930. Click for a larger version (20K)
    Mt. Baker Theatre, c.1930s
     

    c.1946
     
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    Mt. Baker Theatre, c.1950
     

     
    <--- A souvenir fashion and recipe book was distributed by the Mt. Baker Theatre in 1936. The 64 page book included recipes from movie stars such as Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, James Cagney, George Burns, Gracie Allen, and others.
     
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    Photo courtesy William G. Chapman, 2006
     
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    Postcard view of the Mt. Baker, c.1920's
     
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    Gunnar Anderson at the Mt. Baker Theatre, c.1984. Photo courtesy Jeff Fox
     

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