Signs are a way of identifying a building, company, or complex. They can tell us where someone or something is located, the quickest way to get there, which restaurant we are at, or whose office suite we have just entered. This can be done in a number of different styles and materials with sing types ranging from small ADA Signs to gigantic Monument Signs, from bright and flashing Channel Letter Signs to subtle 3D Signs. Their style, size, shape, and illumination all serve to tell us a little bit more about the company behind the sign. This is the case with all of the theatre signs we have been at and the legendary theatres these signs represent.
Even though, there are many more to analyze, will be taking a last look at the Portland theatre signs today. The last stop on our tour being the Bob White Theatre. This theatre was opened in 1924 and is truly a reflection of history surviving. It has undergone a few transformations, including briefly being “revived as an Asian chop-socky house in the mid to late 1970 [after]…the theatre went dark” (silentera.com). It also played Spanish films, the marquee was at one point used to display cover art for the band Johnny and the Hurricanes, and was reopened in 1985, with a new name, only to be close a year later. It was even used as a storage unit for a man who kept his theatre pipe organs there. Finally, it was reopened in 2012, and with the help of two men, Nick Storie and Nick Haas, is on its way to becoming what “the neighborhood hopes for: more than just a functional theatre…[a return] to the historical splendor” (oregonlive).
The Bob White Theatre, like the other theatre’s whose sign have inspired us to dig into the past, the Hollywood Theatre and the Bagdad Theatre, are perfect examples of what happens when a community values its history and determines to preserve it. Through changes and renovations, these theatres have survived to keep the legacy of Portland’s theatres alive. And their signs are a direct reflection of the theatres whose names are streaked across the building’s front. They ask us to stop for a moment and consider the past.