The Fox Theater

Spokane, Washington

Award Type: Honor Award

At its grand opening in 1931, the sleek Art Deco Fox Theater was the pride of Spokane, Wash.  Built during the dark days of the Great Depression for a whopping $1 million, the Fox – at 2,300 seats – was the largest and only air-conditioned performance space in the city. Known for its decorative, eye-popping murals, the Fox hosted both films and live stage performances featuring a parade of Hollywood celebrities. 

For more than four decades, the Fox held its own as a first-run movie house in a bustling downtown entertainment and shopping district. But as suburban malls and multiplexes began to lure moviegoers away from downtown, the theater began a period of decline.  By 2000, the Fox was slated for demolition to make way for a parking lot.

When Spokane resident Myrtle Woldson provided a $3 million gift to jumpstart the theater’s restoration, a unique public-private partnership was born.  Reopened in 2007 after years of diligent fundraising and a meticulous $31 million restoration, the Fox is today a multi-use performing arts facility and the home of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra.  The painstaking project included the removal of years of dirt, grime and popcorn grease and restoring the theater’s original murals, marquees, light fixtures and interior finishes. 
 
“The Fox Theater is a community treasure and is a key part of the ongoing economic revitalization of Spokane’s historic downtown,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.  “Even when the Fox’s stage is bare, the building’s murals, plasterwork and light fixtures put on a show worthy of a standing ovation.”