Liberty Theatre in Kennewick opens on July 3, 1920.

  • By Eric L. Flom and Elizabeth Gibson
  • Posted 1/14/2006
  • Essay 7593
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On July 3, 1920, Kennewick's new Liberty Theatre opens for business at 101 W Kennewick Avenue. The venue, which seats 600, is operated by W. A. Baker, former owner of the Empress Theater in Chewelah. At least 1,000 people attend the opening ceremonies.

The opening of the Liberty prompted an elaborate celebration in Kennewick, with the mayor and several prominent citizens on hand to praise the new venture. Phil G. Warnock opened the dedication ceremony by introducing Mayor George E. Tweedt, A. R. Gardner, and Guy Navarre of the Paramount-Artcraft film exchange in Seattle. All three addressed the gathered crowd, each congratulating Baker and Liberty owner P. J. Murphy on the new venue and its plush furnishings. In particular, Baker and Murphy were thanked for putting faith in the city of Kennewick and its ability to support such a fine theater". The whole town is behind Mr. Baker in his new enterprise," reported The Moving Picture World, "and he is giving them shows of class" ("Seattle Sayings").

The new Liberty was designed and built under the direction of architect F. A. Swingle. The theater contained comfortable box-spring chairs, a modern air conditioning system, and a large stage that could accommodate live shows in addition to motion pictures. On opening day, L. M. Tilton operated two state-of-the-art Simplex projectors, and G. E. Twig supplied the Liberty with music on a large DeLuxe Photoplayer unit. (A Wurlitzer organ replaced the Photoplayer in 1927.)

The Liberty Theatre was later renamed the Roxy before closing its doors altogether. The building remains today (2005) in downtown Kennewick, although it has been remodeled for other commercial use.

Sources: "Big Crowd Attends Theatre Opening," The Kennewick Courier-Reporter, July 8, 1920, p. 1; "Seattle," Motion Picture News, April 24, 1920, p. 3707; "Seattle Sayings," The Moving Picture World, July 24, 1920, p. 479; "Liberty (Roxy) Theatre," Puget Sound Pipeline Online accessed December 23, 2005 (

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