Power House Theatre named to state registry

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Walla Walla's new Shakespearean theater has made the cut on the state's historic registry.

The state Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation has agreed to list the Power House Theatre on the Washington State Historic Register. The application was unanimously approved, according to an announcement from theater officials Monday.

The milestone achievement sets the stage for a similar application at the national level, said theater spokewsoman Denise Slattery, in the announcement. Operators want the 120-year-old brick building at 111 N. Sixth Ave. to be listed with the National Register of Historic Places. Other local properties holdling that distinction: the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center; the Liberty Theatre and the Whitehouse-Crawford building.

As for the state level, the theater is officially listed as the "Electric Light Works Building," the name given to the building when it was constructed in 1890.

The building took on a new role this year as a 340-seat performing arts theater. Shakespeare Walla Walla officials have transformed the building's interior with a design inspired by William Shakespeare's Blackfriars Theatre in London. Performances of The Bard's work are featured throughout the year in addition to other theatrical, musical and comedic productions and community events.

Originally owned by the Walla Walla Gas Co., the operation provided coal gas for Walla Walla's street lights starting in 1891. According to an announcement from the theater, the building was constructed for steam engines to drive electric dynamos and provide electricity to homes and businesses.

In 1892 the company added a Pelton wheel in Mill Creek. Twelve years after that a hydroelectric plant was added on the south fork of the Walla Walla River. The downtown building was expanded 20 years after its original construction for more interior operating space.

Architect Henry Osterman designed the addition and gothic-inspired exterior. He was the same Walla Walla architect commissioned for the Walla Walla County Courthouse, City Hall and Green Park and Sharpstein schools.

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