FELIKS BANEL

Seattle’s Guild 45th owners submitted preliminary application for demolition permit in Nov. 2021

Jan 5, 2022, 7:07 AM | Updated: Jan 6, 2022, 7:24 am

UPDATE AND CORRECTION, Jan. 5, 4 p.m.:

Bryan Stevens of the City of Seattle’s Department of Construction and Inspections reached out to KIRO Radio just before 4 p.m. to clarify and correct his earlier statement regarding a preliminary application for a demolition permit for the Guild 45th Theatre.

“Point of clarification, the address for the preliminary paperwork filed on 11/3/21 is associated with the other Guild 45 building at 2105 N 45th St [the westernmost of the two theatre buildings] not the site of the marquee removal which was at 2115 N 45th Street,” Stevens wrote. “Still, no permit applications for demolition have been filed for [the easternmost of the two theatre buildings – where the marquee was removed on Tuesday, at] 2115 N 45th Street.”

A scenario where just one of the two Wallingford theatres would be demolished and the other left standing – particularly given the dilapidated condition and the now damaged façade of the easternmost of the two buildings – is a real headscratcher.


UPDATE, 2 p.m.: 

The owners of the Guild 45th Theatre in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood do not have a demolition permit, says the City of Seattle. Work done on Tuesday was only to address a safety issue with a damaged sign structure, and that work was done properly, said a city official early Wednesday afternoon.

“We sent an inspector out to the site and confirmed that the damaged marquee was removed above the sidewalk and that crews were cleaning up the remains of that debris,” said Bryan Stevens, spokesperson for the City of Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (DCI). “No permit has been applied for or approved to demolish the building. The scope of work on site only includes the marquee.”

However, Stevens continued, there is “a preliminary application, … the beginnings of the permit application process. However, no plans have been reviewed or approved for demolition. It may progress forward at some point, but I’m not clear on when the applicant plans to complete that process.”

“As an FYI,” Stevens added, “the building is not a designated landmark.”

The building is owned by 2929 Productions LLC of Los Angeles.


UPDATE, 11:30 a.m.:

It doesn’t mean that the dilapidated Guild 45th is here to stay, but according to historian Clay Eals, the theatre in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood is not facing imminent demolition. Contractors took down the theatre’s marquee and sign Tuesday, which were damaged recently when struck by a vehicle, and which were in danger of falling onto the sidewalk.

Eals told KIRO Radio he was putting the final touches on an upcoming “Now & Then” column for the Seattle Times about the Guild 45th and its recent series of COVID-related marquee messages when he saw photos late Tuesday of the theatre with its missing sign and damaged façade. Eals spoke Wednesday morning with the property manager who oversees the site for the theatre’s California-based owners and who filled him in on the details of the work underway. KIRO Radio has also reached out to the property manager by phone, but those calls have not yet been returned.

— ORIGINAL STORY —

Demolition of the old Guild 45th movie theatre in Wallingford appears to have begun. The marquee and neon sign on the eastern-most of the two-theatre complex was taken down Tuesday, with significant damage inflicted to the front of the century-old structure.

The Guild 45th was operated for decades by California-based Landmark Theatres, showing a mix of indie and foreign films, but also fairly mainstream movies, too. As local photo historian Paul Dorpat noted in research he did nearly 30 years ago, the original theatre dates back to the 1920s, from the same era as the Neptune Theatre, which is several blocks east on 45th Street. The Guild 45th has been closed since June 2017.

Based on a visit to the scene late Tuesday, it is not clear if total demolition is underway.

Via Twitter, it appears that the neon letters which spelled “G-U-I-L-D” letters were spared – perhaps retrieved by operators of the Octopus Bar next door – but the marquee appears to be in a heap of twisted metal on the sidewalk. One theory – if this is, in fact, not the start of complete demolition of the theatre complex – is that maybe the marquee, which jutted out over the sidewalk, had to be taken down because it was damaged by the heavy snowfall and rain and in danger of collapsing.

My favorite personal memory of the Guild, and, in particular, to the original eastern auditorium that now appears on the brink of demolition, was in the fall of 2005. I played hooky from my job at MOHAI and went to a matinee premiere of George Clooney’s “Good Night & Good Luck” – the movie about Edward R. Murrow and the Red Scare of the early 1950s.

The theatre was packed that day. On hand were 37-year-old me, and what appeared to be a few busloads of people in their 70s and 80s – people who had actually lived through the history being depicted on the screen. The highlight came when archival footage of Senator Joe McCarthy appeared. Everyone in the theatre booed and hissed, just like it was Voldemort or Darth Vader.

My favorite piece of Guild 45th movie trivia is that the old theatre has a cameo in director Cameron Crowe’s 1989 film “Say Anything.” When John Cusack’s character, iconoclastic kickboxer Lloyd Dobler, drives by and reminisces about love interest Diane Court (played by Ione Skye), the marquee reads “TAPEHEADS,” another film from that era also starring John Cusack.

Special thanks to Vanishing Seattle for their assistance with this aspect of the story.

This is a developing story which will be updated.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.

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Seattle’s Guild 45th owners submitted preliminary application for demolition permit in Nov. 2021