Frye's Opera House

Primary Name: 
Alternate Name: 
Place Type: 
1st Avenue and Marion Street
Postal Code: 
98 104

In 1883, the Fryes commissioned Irish-born architect John Nestor to design a first-class theater for Seattle. Situated on a steeply graded hill on the northeast corner of First and Marion street, the Frye Opera House sat 1,300 patrons, and cost $125,000 to construct. At the time of its opening, it was the most expensive building in the city and the largest theatre north of San Francisco. Modeled by architect John Nestor after the Baldwin Theatre in San Francisco, the Opera House was designed in the French Second Empire style, with four stories of brick faced with ornamented stucco and topped with an elegant mansard roof. The entrance to the theatre was on Marion street, with the first floor set into the hillside along Front street filled with retail space. The auditorium of the theatre hosted many productions besides just those of a theatrical nature, providing a space for many local organizations in need of event space.

Frye himself was known for his work ethic, and personally managed every aspect of the Opera House business, such as negotiating with theatrical companies from around the country and scheduling all of the performances. Opening night for the theatre was an enormous success, featuring a performance of "Claire and the Forge Master" starring Nellie Boyd, Theodore Roberts, and Ella and William Marble. From 1884 to 1889, the Frye Opera House was Seattle’s premier cultural attraction, providing an expanding population with a fashionable venue for musical and dramatic performances. All of this would come to an end, however, with the great fire of June 6th 1889. The Frye Opera House had a brick and stucco exterior, but its wooden structural framing made it extremely vulnerable to fire, and it was completely destroyed by the June 6th conflagration. After the fire, George Frye decided not to rebuild the theater, and later constructed Hotel Stevens on the old opera house site.

Open Date: 
December 1 1884
Close Date: 
June 6 1889
Performing Art Groups: 
Sayre, J. Willis "Playhouses of Seattle." Typescript. University of Washington Special Collections. "Frye Opera House, Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA". Pacific Coast Architecture Database. 2015. Web., Seattle Daily Times, 3 May 1912, p.19., Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 2 Dec. 1884, p.3.