The Restored Fox Theater

Posted by Bob Hoelscher in The West on August 15, 2014

 
 

During my weekend in the Spokane area, I learned about the Expo ’74, which held one of the last World’s Fairs in America. The site of Expo ’74 remains today as the 100-acre Riverfront Park, tucked between the city center to the south and the Spokane River and cataracts of Spokane Falls on the north.

Since I had explored the park’s visitor amenities thoroughly in the past, I concentrated on other attractions this time around. As a big baseball fan, I attended two entertaining contests at historic (but nicely modernized) Avista Stadium between the Spokane Indians and the Everett Aquasox, “farm” clubs of the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners respectively.

However, those who know me are likely aware that I am also a devotee of classical music, symphony orchestras and concert halls, so I had for several years been interesting in visiting the (relatively) new home of the Spokane Symphony, the historic and now lovingly restored Fox Theater.

Happily, when I rang the bell at the Fox’s stage door, the friendly Brian Ritter, the theater’s Technical Director, met me and graciously offered to take me on an impromptu site tour. Having opened originally in 1931, this magnificent art deco facility had fallen upon hard times by the waning days of the 20th century, and had even been divided into a “triplex” theater showing $1 flicks. As a result, some local interests were seeking to demolish the building and erect a parking structure in its place when the orchestra came to the Fox’s rescue around the turn of the century.

It took seven years to amass the $32 million necessary for the restoration, but construction began in 2005, and the splendidly revitalized hall opened to the public in 2007. Originally built to accommodate 2,000 movie-goers, capacity was reduced to about 1,600 for symphony concerts, allowing the addition of a patrons’ lounge immediately behind the main floor seating.  Fortunately, the Spokane Symphony now has its very own, wonderful hall with fine acoustics, a pattern also followed successfully, saving extraordinary historic venues from the wrecker’s ball in the process, by the orchestras of Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Columbus, San Diego, Portland and Vancouver, among other cities.

fox-2Splendid art deco designs adorn the hall

fox-3
Lobby of the restored theater

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