Saving Our State's Historic Theaters
Travel the Main Street of any American town and a theater will likely be there, anchoring the street and beckoning residents and visitors alike to lose themselves for a time in another world. Whether they are architectural masterpieces or modest storefronts with a marquee, they are essential to economic development and maintaining community character.
Eighty operating historic theaters remain in Washington. They are scattered in both small towns and urban neighborhoods. In fact, 25% of the theaters are located in communities with a population of under 5,000, and 56% are in communities under 50,000. Most are owned and managed by individuals. As businesses, they contribute local economies in purchasing goods and products, employing people, and paying taxes. As venues for performances and film, they support an arts economy that ripples far beyond individual artists to include construction workers, graphic designers, electricians, and many other trades and services. Additionally, historic theaters are indispensable assets in developing cultural tourism—the fastest growing segment of the tourism market.
Raise your voice
In the wake of the COVID-19 public health crisis, historic theaters across Washington State need support now more than ever. In acknowledgment of this, the Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP) has requested $0.5 million in funding in the 2021-2023 state budget to create a Historic Theater Grant Program. The Washington Trust is in strong support of DAHP’s proposal, and in fact, we believe that this program will be such an important investment in our local economies and historic downtowns that we are requesting that the legislature provide $1 million for this program.
As part of our state legislative advocacy, we will work across the coming months to advocate for the creation Historic Theater Grant Program, and you can help! Learn more about our advocacy of this and other important capital grant programs (heritage barns, courthouses, cemeteries, and Main Streets) and how you can help encourage Governor Inslee and your legislators to support them:
DAHP’s request for state funding to establish the Historic Theater Grant Program is based on a 2008 statewide survey and physical needs assessment conducted by Artifacts Consulting which profiles Washington State’s 80 extant historic theaters. Check out the survey for more information!