Mount Baker Theatre Celebrates 90th Birthday
When you step inside the 90-year-old Mount Baker Theatre building, you are greeted by a Moorish-Spanishstyled interior. Lush red tones adorn the walls, paired with rich dark wood. An opulent chandelier hangs above, surrounding the theater with cascading warm light.
Amy Guerra, the marketing director of Mount Baker Theatre, says stepping inside of the theater is almost like you’ve stepped inside of a ship. And just like a ship takes you to a different land, the Mount Baker Theatre aims to take you on a journey from everyday life with each performing act on stage.
The theater has been transporting audiences for nine decades now, and it’s time to celebrate. An open house is set for May 5 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The actual birthday of Mount Baker Theatre is April 29, 1927, when its grand opening jammed the theater for what would be the first full house of many. The building was completed after just one year of construction, surprising considering the elaborate design by theater architect R.C. Reamer.
The 90th birthday event is free and open to the public. No reservations are required. Attendees can hear about the building from tour docents, eat birthday cake, and watch a 45-minute video, made by local artist Lanny Little, about the grand theater’s history. Screenings are scheduled for 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. The event encourages people to tour the building and immerse themselves in the grandeur and charm of one of Bellingham’s iconic structures, recognized for its trademark red-topped tower. Guerra says the event may even include a cameo by the theater’s signature organ, a top-of-the-line Style 215 Wurlitzer theater pipe organ.
In 1978, the theater became a national historic landmark. But just a few years later, Canadian investors considered razing it. But public outcry—buttressed by swift legal work—eventually resulted in the city purchasing the theater, now managed by the Mount Baker Theatre Corporation, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization. After the theater became city-owned, serious renovation and restoration began.
Renovations included repainting, implementing a good wiring system, and removing asbestos, among other things. One of the corporation’s missions is “to preserve the restored historic Mount Baker Theatre as a home for local performing arts organizations, film, a venue for touring performers, and community events.” Since ticket sales account for only about half the money needed to run the theater, the organization relies heavily on members, donors, sponsors, advertisers, and special events to keep the venue, and its audiences, humming.
Touring performers have complimented the almostcentury-old theater, admiring how well-kept the facility is, said Brad Burdick, the theater’s executive director. Burdick says the admiration from performers helps the reputation of the theater, since performers talk and their appreciation of the facility spreads to other artists. Situated between two major metropolitan centers in Seattle and Vancouver, the theater has significant pull in drawing big names. Just in the past year, the theater has lined up people such as Garrison Keillor, Lewis Black, and Arlo Guthrie.
So much rich, abundant history is evident on—and within—the walls of the red and white painted theater on North Commercial Street. Hopefully, the Mount Baker Theatre will continue whisking attendees away from the everyday and will remain a beloved landmark for at least the next 90 years to come.
Mount Baker Theatre
104 N. Commercial St., Bellingham
360.733.5793 | mountbakertheatre.com