Tacoma City Council will decide Blue Mouse Theatre historic nomination

The City of Tacoma’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has recommended the 85-year-old Blue Mouse Theatre should be added to the local register of historic places. The unanimous decision came during the commission’s Nov. 12 meeting.

According to the nomination prepared and presented by Brooke Boback of Artifacts Consulting, Inc. with the support of the building’s owners, the Blue Mouse Theatre, located at 2611 N. Proctor St., was designed by architect Fitzherbert Leather, and built by Albert Miller. The 420-seat, 4,100-square-foot theatre was opened Nov. 13, 1923 by theatre mogul John Hamrick. The first movie shown at the Proctor theatre was a silent film called “Green Goddess” and starring George Arliss and Alice Joyce.

Hamrick opened four other theatres with the Blue Mouse name, including one in Seattle in 1920, Portland in 1921, downtown Tacoma in 1922, and the Proctor District venue (known for a time as “Blue Mouse Junior”). He went on to own the Temple Theatre, the Music Box, and the Roxy Theatre in Tacoma.

The downtown Blue Mouse Theatre, located at 1131 Broadway, was demolished in 1960 to make way for an ill-fated “moving sidewalk.”

But the Proctor location survived.

It also changed ownership many times.

Between 1923 and 1945, it was owned by Hamrick, who died Nov. 30, 1956. In 1945, the theatre was purchased by Glendon O. Spencer, who in turn sold it to Conner Theaters Corporation in 1973.

The new owner struggled to operate the venue as a first-run movie house. Five years later, the theatre was sold to a group of Seattle investors and renamed The Bijou. The new owners also struggled to turn a profit.

In 1981, it was sold to Galaxy Theaters.

Seven years later, the theater was purchased by Shirley Mayo. She operated it until declining health forced her to sell the movie house in 1993. One developer wanted to purchase the building and convert it into office space, but Mayo refused. Instead, she approached long-time Proctor resident Bill Evans about purchasing the building and preserving it as a theater. Evans, in turn, approached a group of friends who raised $140,000 to complete the purchase. The group, known as the Blue Mouse Associates, spent five months and $90,000 restoring the building to its original 1923 charm.

Today, the theatre seats 221 people. According to Boback, the Blue Mouse is the oldest continuously run theatre in Washington State.

“It’s a wonderful building that definitely meets the criteria,” said Boback. “It should be on the local register.”

During yesterday’s meeting, several members of the Blue Mouse Associates spoke in support of the nomination.

“For me, community building is Number One in what this building has done for our city,” said Evans. He recalled many of the people he has met over the past 15 years who have fond memories of the venue. “Living history. That’s what this building signifies.”

Although the landmarks commission has recommended adding the theatre to the local register, the final decision is expected to be made by Tacoma City Council before the year’s end.