Alhambra Theatre

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Postal Code: 
98 104

The Alhambra Theatre was opened on March 17, 1884 by Sven Miller, on 2nd Avenue South between South Main and South Washington Street. The Alhambra opened a month earlier than James W. Smith's new Bijou Theatre. Miller paid his performers well in order to maintain an advantage above Smith's Bijou theatre; this tactic guaranteed the Alhambra's success for a time. Eventually, however, Miller ran out of money. On April 21st, a Monday morning, Miller's staff arrived at the theatre to collect their last week's wages to find that Miller had skipped town to Victoria, B.C. to escape his debts. Miller owed $1,070 to Hotaling and Company for liquors, $150 to the orchestra, and $40 to $115 to each of the 19 members of the acting troupe, not to mention money owed to other employees (Grant 23).

Following Miller's departure headliners Bobby Gaylor and his wife attempted to run the theatre themselves. A disagreement with Miller's creditors, Hotaling & Co., prevented the Gaylor's' efforts. The actors then were absorbed into various other local companies, the Gaylors themselves moving to the new Bijou Theatre, which had opened in May. Miller eventually returned from Victoria to attempt to rescue his theatre, but Hotaling and Co. declared that Miller had forfeited any right to consideration, and the theatre was auctioned off on June 7th.

 J. P. Howe, a theatre manager new to the city, bought the Alhambra, renovated its box-seats into balconies, and renamed it the Standard, re-opening its doors on June 17th of 1884. Howe used the Standard as a temporary stop-gap for his own theatre business while he completed construction of Frye's Opera House. When Howe moved his business to Frye's Opera House, he leased the Standard to James W. Smith, who then booked the it with lecturers and traveling theatre troupes; acts which would not compete with those at the Bijou.

In February 1887, Jack Conner and Fred Mackley became the managers of the Standard Theatre, and ran it in friendly competition with Smith's Bijou for a time. When theatre manager John Cort moved to Seattle , the Standard was once again available. Cort leased it and immediately began booking a higher grade of performers. Under Cort's hand, the Standard became the city's most popular box house of the day, drawing crowds of lumber men and mill workers, though it's morally questionable performances were not lauded by the anti-vice movement growing in Seattle at the time.

Cort's success led him to open a new, more genteel theatre, also named the Standard in 1888. The old Standard was then leased to the Women's Christian Temperance Union, whereupon it was remodeled once again. The WCTU would be the last owners of what was once the Alhambra; the building burned to the ground during the Great Seattle Fire on June 6th, 1889. A second theatre named Alhambra rose less than a decade after the first, along Westlake and Pine.

Open Date: 
March 17 1884
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"Alhambra Theatre #1 Pioner Square, Seattle, WA". Pacific Coast Architecture Database. 2015. Web., Elliot, Eugene C. A History of Variety-Vaudeville in Seattle from the Beginning. Seattle : University of Washington Press, 1944. Print, Flom, Eric L. "Cort, John, (1861-1929)"., 9 Aug. 2001, Essay 3296, Seattle Sunday Times April 18, 1909, p.33.