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Clemmer (Columbia) Theatre - 4/32 Estey & 2/10 Wurlitzer
Seattle, Washington
1414 2nd Ave.
Estey installation timeframe: 1912 - 1922
Wurlitzer installation timeframe: 1922 - 1936

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Clemmer Theatre
Considered to be the first theater in the United States primarily constructed for the exhibition of motion pictures, the Clemmer Theatre bore the name of James Q. Clemmer, the man who confounded those who said he was a fool to sink $135,000 -- a king's ransom in 1912 -into what surely would turn out to be a fad. "Why, everyone knew movies never would replace vaudeville."
Seattle had several movie theaters before the Clemmer, but most were either remodeled storefronts or live theaters that also showed movies. That the Clemmer Theater isn't as well remembered as other Seattle theatres isn't surprising, for it bore the Clemmer name for only nine years before being renamed the Columbia Theatre in 1922. The building, however, was still standing in 1982 and housed the Snug Restaurant.
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Spacious interior
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In 1912, the Seattle Times described the theater, "The old Roman style is in vogue, plain columns set off by flaming electric torches. These torches are decidedly unique and something new in the manner of theatrical lighting in the West."
Four years earlier, Clemmer became manager for his father's Kenneth Hotel in Pioneer Square.
He managed a $6,000 bankroll to transform what had been an unused space on the hotel's ground floor into his first movie house, the Dream Theater.
Then, in a stroke of brilliance, he put in a pipe organ and hired a young fellow named Oliver Wallace to pump out tunes to accompany the silent films. It is believed that this was the first instance ever of using a pipe organ to accompany motion pictures.
The Seattle Sunday Times, April 7, 1912, reported, "Great Organ to Be Installed" :
"On either side of the proscenium arch, in large specially built niches will be placed the pipes of the massive pipe organ which will be one of the largest and finest on the Coast. This organ is being built in the East, but could not be completed in time for the opening of the theatre. It will be installed within the next thirty days. Oliver G. Wallace, recognized as a genius in the interpretation of photoplays on the pipe organ and piano, will be the player."
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Theatre staff
The Clemmer organ was originally a 3/28 Estey (opus 981) installed in 1912. It was enlarged to a 4/32 in 1916 with a new console and four rank Echo division. Current status of this instrument is unknown.
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Shriners Parade along 2nd Ave, c.1915

This photo offers a glimse of the Clemmer Theatre (top, centered).
It was taken in 1917 during road work along 2nd Avenue.

The house was renamed to Columbia Theatre in 1922.

Ads from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, c. 1925. Phantom of the Opera starting Lon Chaney.
The Columbia Wurlitzer was a Style 210 (opus #533) installed in 1922. Popular Northwest organist Eddie Zollman played the Columbia for several years.
In 1936, the organ moved to University of Puget Sound. It was later sold to Harry Heth of Houston, Texas in 1981. Current status is unknown.
Interestingly, there was another Columbia Theatre located on Rainier Ave. in the Columbia City neigborhood of Seattle.

Snow storm, 1916. Clemmer Theatre on left.

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