A Spectacular Restoration
The Columbia Theatre recently completed the final leg of a thirty-year-long journey from the shadow of a wrecking ball to a newly-restored 800 seat state-of-the-art performance hall. The story of its saving is a melodrama worthy of the silent films shown in the first years of the Columbia’s life. It goes something like this…
On Saturday, June 30, 1979, The Daily News announced the closure and imminent demolition of the once grand Columbia Theatre with a photo spread and the caption: “Goodbye Columbia.” It was the final look inside the venerable old theatre that time seemed to have passed by. A few more months of wrangling and its fate was sealed. The Columbia would be demolished and a new multiplex cinema would be erected in its place.
In May of 1980, crews and equipment were moved into an adjacent lot to prepare the four story building for demolition. The building fixtures were to be stripped and sold and significant prep work was to begin on Monday, May 19.
Stop for a moment and consider that over the years there have been many historic theatres reduced to rubble across our country. The few that remain are a testament to the grand era of entertainment that had its zenith in 1925, the year the Columbia Theatre opened its doors. Of the countless stories of last minute reprieves, none can claim a more spectacular reprieve than our Columbia…saved by a volcano!
The eruption of Mt. Saint Helens on May 18, 1980, halted demolition plans as equipment was diverted to help with the recovery efforts. In the mist of this international drama, the theatre was all but forgotten. However, when the dust…or ash, settled and the mountain went cold again, the Columbia still stood like an orphan waiting to be adopted. And she was! Through the tireless effort of a group of citizens, led by Virginia Rubin, the Columbia Theatre Task Force was formed. The Task Force’s only purpose…”to restore the Columbia Theater as a Regional Performing Arts Center.”
When the “Crown Jewel of Southwest Washington” reopened in February 2010, concluded was a remarkable journey of survival. The Columbia is now a beautiful piece of our history that is standing tall and will remain to serve our community for generations to come! It’s YOUR Columbia Theatre, don’t miss a MOMENT!