Mount Baker Theatre, Bellingham, Washington

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Article by Ray W. Greene, DDS, Retired

The local theatre was opened as one of the Fox Theatres, in the style and time of the good old Movie palaces- to feature silent film (with organ accompanient), Vaudeville and local stage events when desired. The House opened in April, 1927, and has remained in constant use to the present time. Seating capacity is 1800 with the main floor and rather large balcony.

During the rather doldrum days- when most theatres were closed or demolished in favor of parking lots, a minimum of maintenance was performed.

Several years ago the Mount Baker was designated as a "National Historical Monument". This has been the beginning of a new life for the "old lady".

Some observations about the Mount Baker Theatre:

#1. Original Moorish Design has been maintained thruout.

#2. Re-orientation has been with "Civic Center" concept.

#3. Interior has been entirely refinished including walls and carpet.

#4. All seats have been removed, refinished, re-upholstered and re-installed.

#5. Stage has been revamped and can now handle opera or the largest of symphony orchestras.

#6. This multi-million dollar revamp was effected during the past four summer months. The present schedule of programs keeps a Stage, Office and House crew routinely busy.

Observations I make should be reasonable accurate-- I was there when it opened in 1927 and have known the area thruout these many years.

The pipe organ originally installed was a Wurlitzer, model #615, two manual. Console is located in the orchestra pit from whence it may be raised to stage level by hydraulic piston (oridinal installation by Otis Elevator).

This instrument is maintained by the Mount Baker Organ Society, membership of approximately one hundred residents of Northwest Washington and British Columbia, Canada. Mostly die-hards and "pipe organ buffs" from the days of romance on the screen. The group presents a special organ concert once each month for the delight of those citizens who "remember when". Guest organists in years gone by have included Jesse Crawford. More recently today's talent has been represented by Walter Strony.

Several of us have contributed many "labor-of-love" hours in maintenance and additions to the Wurlitzer. Re-winding and re-leathering have established quick response. Two added ranks of pipes have increased versatility. Perhaps the instrument is now best described as a 2/12 Wurlitzer #616.

Anyhow, we're proud to be part of the show! This remains as one of only four instruments in the Pacific Northwest being routinely used as originally intended in a theatre.

Another retired dentist and I vowed that there was to be no such thing as Wurlitzer retirement. we have made good our vows and are proud of it. Please come see for yourself!

Ray W. Greene, DDS, Retired

Bellingham, Washington

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