Preservationist try to restore old Washington Theater by seeking historic designation
By Janette Williams, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/16/2010 08:53:49 PM PST
In a move to save the deteriorating Washington Theater-built in 1924 as the Southland’s first multi=use project (stores, offices, housing and the theater)-preservationist groups are applying to have the theater put on the local landmark list. (SGVN/Staff photo by Walt Mancini)
PASADENA – It was 1925, movies were silent, flickers were the latest entertainment sensation, and the Washington Theater opened its doors at Lake Avenue and Washington Boulevard.
It was never one of the lavish movie palaces that came later on, but it has its own historic distinction. The elegant Spanish Colonial Revival building designed by Altadena architect Clarence Jay is recognized as the first mixed-use structure of its kind in Pasadena, and possibly the Southland, according to Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage.
“There were four different uses in one building,” she said. “It had retail stores along the front, a 900-seat theater, offices – probably theater offices – above the shops and then housing in the back.”
But for the past 20 years or so, the empty, deteriorating and often-vandalized building’s fate had caused concern among preservationists.
Now, Pasadena Heritage and the Pasadena Neighborhood Coalition are banking that their nomination of the property for listing as a city historic landmark will help promote its long-term survival.
It has been declared eligible by city staff, and the City Council is expected to consider its listing next month, said Vicrim Chima of Pasadena’s planning department.
The property is tied in with the city’s earliest commercial history, Mossman said, and its place in a prominent corner of an emerging shopping and retail center in the 1920s is enough to support its historic designation.
But since its heyday, the property has had a “checkered history,” Mossman said.