– Our History

Restoring Main Street –

1920

to

1939

P.J. Murphy Building

On July 3, 1920, Kennewick's new Liberty Theatre opens for business at 101 W Kennewick Avenue. The venue, which seats 600, is operated by W. A. Baker, former owner of the Empress Theater in Chewelah. At least 1,000 people attend the opening ceremonies.

Square Deal Realty occupies the loft; Haas Bakery is located on the corner of Kennewick and Auburn.

Dedication included Mayor George E. Tweedit and Miss Alice Corfman, costumed as the “Goddess of Liberty” reading a brief dedicatory message to the community. Movie features included W. S. Hart’s production of “The Toll Gate” and Fatty Arbuckle in “The Garage.”

The opening of the Liberty prompted an elaborate celebration in Kennewick, with the mayor and several prominent citizens on hand to praise the new venture. Phil G. Warnock opened the dedication ceremony by introducing Mayor George E. Tweedt, A. R. Gardner, and Guy Navarre of the Paramount-Artcraft film exchange in Seattle. All three addressed the gathered crowd, each congratulating Baker and Liberty owner P. J. Murphy on the new venue and its plush furnishings. In particular, Baker and Murphy were thanked for putting faith in the city of Kennewick and its ability to support such a fine theater”. The whole town is behind Mr. Baker in his new enterprise,” reported The Moving Picture World, “and he is giving them shows of class” (“Seattle Sayings”).

The new Liberty was designed and built under the direction of architect F. A. Swingle. The theater contained comfortable box-spring chairs, a modern air conditioning system, and a large stage that could accommodate live shows in addition to motion pictures. On opening day, L. M. Tilton operated two state-of-the-art Simplex projectors, and G. E. Twig supplied the Liberty with music on a large DeLuxe Photoplayer unit. (A Wurlitzer organ replaced the Photoplayer in 1927.)

The Liberty Theatre was later renamed the Roxy (1939) before closing its doors altogether. The building remains today in downtown Kennewick, although it has been remodeled for other commercial use.

Sources: “Big Crowd Attends Theatre Opening,” The Kennewick Courier-Reporter, July 8, 1920, p. 1; “Seattle,” Motion Picture News, April 24, 1920, p. 3707; “Seattle Sayings,” The Moving Picture World, July 24, 1920, p. 479; “Liberty (Roxy) Theatre,” Puget Sound Pipeline Online accessed December 23, 2005 (www.pstos.org/instruments/wa/kennewick/liberty.htm).

1927

Liberty under Mercy Theatres

The Liberty Theatre was purchased by Mercy Theatre Group of Yakima (Frederick Mercy, Sr. built the Capitol Theatre in Yakima) in 1927. The balcony seating is removed, more seating added on the main floor, and a Wurlitzer Pipe Organ from San Francisco is installed on the main floor.

1933

to

1934

Great depression

The Theatre is closed during due to economic impacts of the Great Depression.

1936

Remodel

The wood floors now visible in the upstairs loft is installed, along with upholstered bucket seats in the theatre, a separate restroom, exterior paint, and new heating, ventilation, and projectors.

1939

to

1957

The Roxy Theatre

New name, new prices!
Theatre reopens as the Roxy Theatre featuring Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane in "Torchy Blane in Chinatown" and Douglas Dumbrille in Zane Grey's " The Mysterious Rider."

1962

to

1983

Ken's Clothing Store

New name, new prices!
Theatre reopens as the Roxy Theatre featuring Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane in "Torchy Blane in Chinatown" and Douglas Dumbrille in Zane Grey's " The Mysterious Rider."

1971

to

1983

Rita's Women's Clothing Store

New name, new prices!
Theatre reopens as the Roxy Theatre featuring Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane in "Torchy Blane in Chinatown" and Douglas Dumbrille in Zane Grey's " The Mysterious Rider."

2000

to

2001

Historic Renovations

Ann Steiger explored the then Dicker and Swap by flashlight, the outline of an Egyptian-like motif in gold paint on the cement wall suggests that this old building enjoyed more glory in a distant past. She would later become the owner of this building, peeling back the pocked metal facade and restoring the windows, doors, and architectural elements of the original Liberty/Roxy Theatres.

Dicker and Swap would continue to occupy the main floor for a few months until the major renovations came together.

2003

to

2015

Roxy Theatre Antiques and Gifts and Ivory Jazz

Ann and fellow downtowners Deb Ashbeck and Deb Watkins – themselves responsible for restoring the original Columbia Pharmacy and Watkins Buildings – held the first series of Loft Art Walks in Downtown Kennewick. The then unfinished restorations left blank walls and windowless facades to comb through exploring and critiquing local artists in their first foray into professional exhibitions. Later, amongst others, the three would expand their building restorations and shift the art walk to the sidewalk. Around this time Rick Eaton and Suzie Michaels opened the Ivory Jazz Piano and Wine Bar in the loft. Later Ivory Jazz became Roxy Wine Bar for a few years before closing permanently – the loft was then transformed into a loft apartment.

Ann was introduced to her husband – Sculptor Tom McClelland – during planning for the initial Loft Art Walks, whom she would soon marry at First United Methodist Church in Downtown Kennewick. Ann and Tom's reception was in the Watkins Building at 27 North Auburn, which now houses DS Watkins Gallery.

2015

to

Now

Roxy Theatre Antiques and Gifts and Rockabilly Roasting Company

In 2015 Rockabilly Roasting Company moved into the space formerly occupied by Kennewick Coffee. Proprietor Travis Jordan modified the space to accommodate a 5 pound Diedrich Roaster, where the former Lampson Crane roadie hung up the keys and began roasting the rich, full-bodied coffee you can enjoy today.