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picture 15 Detail of wall decoration, balcony level.

The mixture of motifs and styles inside the Coliseum was similar to that of a museum, where art from many sources may inhabit separate galleries in the same hall. Nordic imagery was incorporated into the design, reflective perhaps of the Scandinavian population that had settled in the Puget Sound area. Other imagery reflected a traditional classical style, and some suggested Native-American imagery within a classical framework.
picture 16 Detail of decoration in ceilingwork.

Priteca featured several separate design elements featuring carved or sculpted faces, surrounded by elaborate decorative patterns. Besides the individual beauty of these pieces, this sort of design element served to greatly improve the acoustics of the hall. By placing three-dimensional artwork on the walls, in the corners of the hall, and at the edge of the ceiling, sharp echoes and similar acoustic problems were considerably reduced.
picture 17 Ornamental design and faces on front of balcony edge.

The acoustics of the Coliseum were especially important because of the sort of music featured at the theatre. The Coliseum featured one of the largest Wurlitzer organs of its day, and during its early years, the Coliseum Concert Orchestra featured 35-50 members, providing accompaniment for some films and performing weekend concerts.
picture 18 Top of proscenium arch.

Of all of its remaining original design, the most impressive individual artwork was certainly the proscenium arch, which featured an elaborate pattern leading from the base to the top of the arch, where a large image of Dionysus grinned menacingly over the audience. Because of the height of the arch, and its position in the hall, this face was most visible from the balcony, and it's possible that many of the theatre's patrons were unaware it even existed.
picture 19 Ornamental pattern on proscenium arch.

With the closing of the Coliseum, the Neptune Theatre in the University District became the oldest of Seattle's premiere moviehouses to still feature regular film programming. The Bay Theatre, in Ballard, is actually the oldest operating cinema in Seattle, and if the Neptune has inherited the Coliseum's mantle as the premiere movie showplace, the Bay Theatre more closely reflects the plucky charm of the Coliseum in its later years.
picture 20 Dionysus.

The Coliseum building is currently home to a Bannana Republic store. The exterior of the building has been maintained, and elements of the original decor have been incorprated into the store's design. Even with development in the blocks around it, the Coliseum remains a Seattle landmark holding its place at the corner of Fifth avenue and Pike Street, as it has for the past eighty years.



Continued on page four.




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Copyright 1996 E.H. Larson.