Repairs begin on former Liberty Theater in Pasco

Herald staff writerNovember 24, 2013 

Work has started on repairing the former Liberty Theater building, which was damaged by an August fire.

Owner Octavio Rodriguez filed a commercial construction permit application Wednesday with the city of Pasco for the building at 114 N. Fourth Ave. The permit states that Rodriguez plans to do $16,000 worth of work, including putting in new trusses and repairing the roof.

Rodriguez declined to comment on his plans for the building.

The structure is stable, and the building's concrete walls do not need to be replaced, said Rick White, Pasco's community and economic development director.

"The owner wants to rebuild the building," he said.

White said he did not know if Rodriguez had a tenant lined up to use the building, or how it would be used.

Pasco Fire Chief Bob Gear said the fire appeared to have been started by an electrical problem between the ceiling and the roof in the northeast part of the theater.

The theater opened in 1914, with Pasco residents helping to pay for it by donating $15 apiece. It played host to Eastern Washington's first movie with sound, Fox Movietone Follies of 1929, according to Herald archives.

It also featured minstrel shows, talent competitions and graduations before being turned into an X-rated theater in 1976 after being purchased by Roger Forbes. It has been closed since 1989, despite at least three attempts to reopen it.

Rodriguez told the Herald in March 2012, more than a year before the fire, that he planned to turn the 11,400-square-foot building into retail space, but wanted to restore its historic facade.

The Franklin County Historical Museum has an exhibit on the history of the theater. Museum administrator Sherel Webb said the display, which has been up since mid-September, includes original seating from the building, as well as fabric wallpaper that was used to soundproof the theater.

"It helped make the sound really good," she said.

The exhibit also includes a slideshow detailing the history of the theater, including its time as an adult establishment and the fire, Webb said.

"It's just a really good way to catch up on all that history," she said.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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