History of the Theatre 1901-Present - A Flaming Curtain
A Flaming Curtain
At dawn on the morning of December 11, 1923, the city garbage collector pulled his wagon into the alley behind the theater and noticed smoke coming from the basement. He phoned in an alarm at 6:50 a.m. For the next three hours three dozen firemen struggled to control the blaze.
The fire apparently began under the stage near the orchestra pit and raced up the stage draperies to the wooden framing in the flies. It was an exceedingly dangerous fire to fight. Firemen who had battled their way backstage dodged falling counterweights and sandbags from the rigging loft, flames undermining the floor beneath their feet and the ceiling overhead. They were finally forced to retreat and concentrate on preventing the fire's spread.
Newly appointed Fire Chief C.E. Swanson's most vivid memory of the conflagration, however, concerned the awful effect it had on the city's fire loss record for the year. Up to that point, it had been amazingly low, about 50 cents per capita. When the smoke cleared that figure had quadrupled.
By the time the ceilings collapsed the building was the focus of a liquid crossfire from three hoses on the roof of the bank building to the north, several more atop shops to the south, and a high-pressure stream from across Colby Avenue.
Another squad of firemen dodged falling bricks in the alley at the rear, battling to prevent the flames from spreading eastward. In that direction lay the Rose Theatre, its marquees advertising a film called "The Midnight Alarm...the most sensational fire feature ever produced." Rose manager Joe St.Peter was forced to admit he had been upstaged.
The call-board backstage was lost in the flames. Autographed by dozens of celebrities over the years, it was a bittersweet symbol of more than two decades of rich theatrical history reduced to smoldering rubble.
There were rumors of arson but the insurance company saw no problem. Before the ashes were cold the Everett Improvement Company and Star Amusement announced plans to collaborate on the theater's reconstruction, declaring "We will rebuild at once."