The block now occupied by the Pantages Theater was once the site of a saloon, Tacoma's first library, and Tacoma's first department store. In 1908, William Jones of Walla Walla bought the block and razed the buildings. Soon after, Greek immigrant Alexander Pantages arrived in the northwest with dreams of owning a chain of beautiful vaudeville theaters across the country. Thanks to financial assistance from his mistress and business partner, “Klondike” Kate Rockwell, Pantages and Jones were able to raise the funds for the combination Jones Building and Pantages Theater, which cost $400,000.
Construction began in 1916, and the new Pantages Theater, the second of the Pantages chain, opened in January 1918. Often regarded as the most beautiful, the Tacoma Pantages was designed by Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca after an ornate theater in the Palace of Versailles. The Tacoma Pantages served as a live theater for only eight years before being converted to a movie house and being sold to RKO, at which time the name was changed to the Orpheum. In 1932, the theater was purchased by Will Conner of Tacoma and was known as the Roxy until the 1980s when it was renamed the Pantages Theater.
A proposal to restore the Pantages as the cornerstone of a revitalized downtown area led to the restoration beginning in 1978 after the city bought the theater. On February 12, 1983, the Pantages Theater officially reopened, making 2005 its 22nd anniversary season, and its 87th birthday. Today it is the oldest of the Pantages Theaters still in operation.*
In 2018, the theater underwent a significant renovation for its centennial in order to restore the theater to its former glory.
*Wikipedia Broadway Center for the Performing Arts
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