Return to PSTOS Home Page
Welcome to PSTOS

Portola (Admiral) Theatre - 2/6 Wicks
Seattle, Washington
2343 California at Admiral Way
Organ installation timeframe: 1924 - ?
Back to the Washington Original Theatre Installations page

Click for a larger version of this image (86K)
Portola Theatre, c.1930
Built in 1919, the Portola Theatre was located in West Seattle. A 2/6 Wicks theatre organ was installed in 1924. One of the opening organists was Adelaide Kirkman and records indicate that Barney Barnes played at the Portola in 1927.

The West Seattle Herald captured many of the early happenings at the Portola:
June 1923: Portola's new management promises "the best in pictures...Many will be first runs in the state."
May 1924: Portola installs a 75-car free parking lot, the first of its kind in the city. "It is lighted and practically always under the supervision of a theatre employee so that danger of theft is about eliminated and it is not necessary to keep a tail light burning on the car." The theater also installs a screen lighting system that fades in and out "almost imperceptibly," plus a series of colored lights below the screen, which can be "manipulated in combinations and various ways. Thus, the bright yellow sunrise or the red of sunset is played on the screen. Night scenes appear in bluish hue and the flash of lightning is vividly portrayed."
July 1924: Portola announces a nickel boost in admission price, to 25 cents, to pay for "the better class of pictures.'' The kids' price of 10 cents stays the same.
September 1924: Portola installs $18,000 pipe organ, a 60-piece orchestral variety that's the biggest in suburban Seattle. Record crowds attend the first performances. The theatre also debuts a film with old-time favorite songs. "Led my Miss (Adelaide) Kirkman on the big new pipe organ as the words were flashed on the screen, the audience all joined in and sang. So enthusiastic was this novelty picture received by the audience, that the many people waiting in front to gain admission...thought there surely must be some large opera company inside."
September 1924: Portola owner George Herpick and manager William Hartford announced they will build a second theatre, between Morgan and Holly streets on the west side of California. It would seat 700-900 people and have a pipe organ. A year later, work began on the new theatre - north of the planned site at the corner of California and Hudson. In February 1926, the owners released the name of the new, Spanish-style moviehouse: Granada Theatre.
December 1925: The Portola held a "big Charleston contest" on its wide stage Dec. 2-3, 1925. Every seat was taken and the foyer was jammed both nights as Evelyn Beahm topped the "fast and furious" competition.
1927: Portola and Granada Theatres sold to Universal Chain Theatrical Enterprises.
July 1929: The Portola spends $10,000 on Western Electric equipment to present its first talkies, William Boyd in "The Flying Fool" and a comedy, "Go Easy Doctor." Portola manager Sol Strauss stressed his building was ideal for sound movies because it lacked "echoes that often make voices sound 'wooly'... The jokes about the 'squawkies' will be out of place, at least in this theatre."
October 1930: Portola and Granada Theatre ownership changed to Farwest Theatres of Seattle. The new owners promised to restore "the personal touch" to the moviehouses.
May 1933: Portola responds to the Depression, cutting the admission price to 15 cents.
Summer 1938: John Danz announces plans to build new 1000 seat theatre in West Seattle
January 1942: John Danz's greatly expanded Portola opens January 22 under a new name - the Admiral. The 1000-seat theatre was designed by famous N.W. theatre architect B. Marcus Priteca
1973: Admiral Theatre was "twinned" into two 430-seat theatres.

Admiral Theatre, c.1946

Click for a larger version of this image (21K)
Admiral Theatre, 2002

About this site© PSTOS, 1998-2014