Historian Paul Dorpat looks a Northwest survivor

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With deserved fanfare and events, the Moore Theatre last year celebrated its centennial. First imagined in 1903 by its namesake, James Moore, Seattle’s super-developer at that time, the opening-night curtain did not rise until Dec. 28, 1907. Many in the overflow crowd were devoted to live theater, but then the dulling effects of television were still decades away, although the delights of silent films were available.

The inaugural night’s VIPs included Gov. Albert Mead, who from the stage gave a learned speech on the part played by history in theater, for the Moore’s inaugural fare was an operetta, “The Alaskan.” The scenario was taken from the book of the same name, written by Joseph Blethen, who was also the librettist. Because the author was the son of Seattle Times publisher Col. Alden Blethen, the family newspaper fittingly declined to review what was described in another newspaper as “the event of the season.”

This moment in the Moore’s construction was also recorded in 1907. The theater was built very quickly. Moments before the doors opened to the happy crowd, workers were still installing their seats.

James Moore was another one to climb the stage to share some wit. Once the admiring applause stopped — and here I borrow from Eric Flom’s historylink.org essay on the theater — “Moore’s comments were brief and, quite literally, off-the-cuff. ‘In anticipation I wrote out a very good speech. I wrote it on my cuff and I laid out that cuff tonight to wear. Mrs. Moore is a careful sort of woman, and she discovered what she believed was a soiled cuff and took it away. So I come before you speechless.’ “

“Washington Then and Now,” by Paul Dorpat and Jean Sherrard, can be purchased through www.washingtonthenandnow.com ($45).