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St. Helens Theatre in Chehalis opens on May 12, 1924.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5126 : Printer-Friendly Format

On May 12, 1924, the new St. Helens Theatre in Chehalis opens for business with the silent comedy Sporting Youth, a feature film starring Reginald Denny and Laura LaPlante. Located on Market Street adjacent to the St. Helens Hotel, the new theater seats 850 people and reportedly cost $100,000 to construct.

The St. Helens was designed in an Italian Renaissance style. Made largely of brick and tile, the exterior featured three arched windows on the upper floors that served as the house’s most distinctive feature apart from the marquee. Inside, blue and gold were predominant in the original décor, with lush carpets laid over a thick padding that virtually eliminated noise from foot traffic through the lobby.   In addition to motion picture screenings, the venue was designed to accommodate touring theatrical productions on a stage 22 feet wide and 40 feet deep.  Of particular note was the St. Helens' Kimball organ, which constituted roughly one-fifth of the total expenditure on the theater.  (In 1952, this grand instrument was sold for a mere $1,000 and moved to a home in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle.  It currently resides in an organ museum in Calgary, Alberta.)

Opening day was one of great importance to Chehalis.  On Monday, May 12, a joint luncheon was held for members of the Citizens Club, Rotary, and the Kiwanis at the St. Helens Hotel.  The guest speaker for the occasion was Melvin Winstock, a prominent vaudeville and motion-picture man based in Portland.  His talk was entitled “The Theatre and the Relation it Bears to the Community,” and was followed by a guided tour of the new motion picture house.  “Every citizen of the community is invited to attend this luncheon whether a member of any civic organizations or not,” reported one Chehalis paper.

“St. Helens (Fox) Theatre, Chehalis, Washington,” Puget Sound Pipeline Online Website (www.pstos.org/instruments/wa/chehalis/st-helens.htm); “New $100,000 Play House Opens to Public Monday,” clipping from an unnamed Chehalis newspaper dated May 9, 1924, Puget Sound Pipeline Online Website, Ibid.

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