Historic Elsinore Theatre took its name from the Castle in Shakespeare's Hamlet. The theatre's Tudor Gothic design is in tune with the architectural style of Shakespeare's day.
The Elsinore Theatre was built in 1925-1926 on the site of a livery stable by George B. Guthrie, a Portland attorney. Guthrie had owned and operated the Oregon Theatre in Salem since 1912. The principal designer of Elsinore Theatre was Ellis F. Lawrence of the Portland firm of Lawrence and Holford. Lawrence is also recognized as the founder and dean of the University of Oregon School of Architecture. Fred S. Allyn, associated with the firm and later to become a partner, is credited with coordinating the interior design.
The general contractor was Salem builder Cuyler Van Patten. Lumber, molding and trim came from the Charles K. Spaulding Logging Company of Salem. David L. Hogan was the contractor for plaster and enriched molding of the concrete. The sheet metal marquee, ductwork and roofing were provided by Carl B. Armpriest. Rubber tile flooring was installed by Martin Viesko. The electrical contractor was Page-McKinney Company of Portland. Rushlight, Hastorf and Lord., Inc., also of Portland contracted the plumbing, heating and ventilation.
Hardware was provided by Ray L. Farmer Hardware Company. Electric lamps were supplied by Vibert and Todd of Salem. The plaster work in the lobby was by Herman Brothers of Portland. Ted Wannic, was the foreman for the painting and decoration in the auditorium for Berger Brothers of Portland, who were also responsible for design, color schemes and decor.
The proscenium arch above the stage, the auditorium ceiling and balcony breasts were designed and executed by Louis Gluck of Seattle. The stair railings and other ornamental ironwork were the work of craftsman Henry Jaegler of Salem. Lighting fixtures were designed and installed by Fred Baker of Baker-Harkness Company of Portland.
Since its completion and opening by Guthrie in 1926, the Tudor Gothic-style Elsinore has been a prominent feature in downtown Salem. Located near the southeast corner of the intersection of High Street & State Street, the Historic Elsinore Theatre meets National Register Criterion C as an outstanding example of atmospheric motion picture theater architecture and decoration in the state.
The Historic Elsinore Theater's west-facing facade is characterized by a central four-story tower with battlements & flanking towers. The facade was beautifully refurbished and the marquee completely rebuilt & installed in the fall of 2002.
The foyer or lobby of the theatre holds true to the medieval atmosphere with its grand proportions. It is the centerpiece of Historic Elsinore Theatre. The arches rise two and a half stories to a vaulted ceiling painted and lighted to suggest a nighttime sky.
Two grand double staircases are located at either end of the lobby and lead to the first and second balcony sections of the auditorium. Faux stonework by master plasterer D. L. Hogan is featured along with superb custom woodwork & artistic metal work found in the staircases & wall sconces.
From the lobby are views of stained glass windows executed by the Povey Brothers Studio of Portland. Each grand staircase frames a large mural by Nowland Zane, a member of Ellis Lawrence's fine arts faculty at the University of Oregon. The murals are based on the Shakespearean plays Macbeth, and Romeo & Juliet.
The auditorium originally seated 1,435 amid superior acoustics. Today it seats 1342 with 688 on the main floor and remains "acoustically perfect" as described by performers. The auditorium features colorful heraldic panels on its immense ceiling. Still, the central feature of the auditorium is the magnificent proscenium (arch) above the stage. A three-room chamber above & behind the proscenium houses most of the many hundreds of pipes for the famed "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ. A number of very large organ pipes are located backstage.
"...The [Elsinore] theatre is significant as the most intact example of 1920's theatre design in Salem and the only example of a Gothic style theatre of this period within the state of Oregon. it is also significant as the only existing theatre design from the firm of Lawrence and Holford..." -Ellis Lawrence Building inventory by Demuth and Lakin.
Designed for both stage and motion pictures, the theatre in its early days was a center for drama & music in Salem. Vaudeville players and motion pictures were normal fare. Many famous & aspiring actors and musicians played the Elsinore. A Saturday morning Mickey Mouse Club for talented youngsters was created during The Great Depression and ran through 1936. Zollie Volchok was the emcee.
In 1932 the theatre was equipped for sound to accommodate "talkies", movies with sound tracks. Stage shows were replaced by movies and the Elsinore Theatre moved into a period of being a premier, first-run movie house.
Today's Historic Elsinore Theatre is a popular venue for world-class entertainers, classic movies, local talent, stage shows and much more. For architectural historians, Historic Elsinore Theatre is one of the finest examples of an Atmospheric Theatre in the United States. Bring binoculars for superior views of the theatre's remarkable auditorium ceilings. A tour of Historic Elsinore Theatre is a memorable event for young & old alike. Visit Historic Elsinore Theatre.
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