The week of September 30 through October 4, 2008 has truly been a display of amazing dedication on the part of numerous people (all of them volunteers!) who helped remove 997 original seat backs, cushions and armrests at the 7th Street Theatre. Volunteers showed up on Tuesday and Wednesday completing over half the job, and on Saturday the job was finished.
Please take a moment view the pictures in our albumto appreciate the enormity of this project. Walking through the seat-free auditorium is like walking back in time to 1928, when “1100 of the finest type upholstered seats” were installed.
The seats were hailed as “the newest and most comfortable design” and were made by the Hayward-Wakefield Company of New York. Notably, the 7th Street’s seats were similar to those installed in the famous Roxy Theatre in New York. (Hoquiam American, Feb. 9, 1928). On July 8, 1928, the Grays Harbor Washingtonian published this enlightening tidbit: “For comfort and convenience there are no stairs to trip the unwary foot; the heavy carpetings still the footsteps; the seats, especially designed for the 7th Street Theatre, are wide and comfortable and so placed there is no need to crane one’s neck to see the stage or screen. And there is no awkward crowding or stepping on toes to reach the center seats.”
Much discussion was held over the past few years on the best approach to “restore or replace.” There are several reasons behind the decision to restore the seats, the most important being that the 7th Street Theatre is an entirely unique theatrical venue in the Pacific Northwest. It is one of the last remaining “atmospheric” theatres, and is mostly in its original condition. The theatre was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, and by restoring the seats the theatre stays in line with the standards for historic buildings.
Another aspect is that more than half of the seats are tiered — placed on “steps.” This construction doesn’t allow the seat to be spaced forward or backward to increase leg room. The acoustics in the 7th Street are absolutely amazing (sort of like being inside a musical instrument), and many people feel that the wooden seat backs help with this aspect and to replace all seats with padded seats and backs would absorb the sound and diminish the acoustical properties. In any event, we felt it would be a travesty to this national treasure to remove the original seats, which have seated generations of Harborites for the past 80 years. The seat supports will be refurbished, all the cushions will be restored and the backs refinished.