Fox Theater in Spokane, Wash., to Receive Preservation Honor Award

October 20, 2010 |

Washington, D.C. (October 19, 2010)—The National Trust for Historic Preservation will present its Preservation Honor Award for the renovation of the Fox Theater in Spokane, Wash. The project is one of 23 award winners to be honored by the National Trust during its 2010 National Preservation Conference next week in Austin, Texas.

At its grand opening in 1931, the sleek Art Deco Fox Theater was the pride of Spokane, Wash. Built during the dark days of the Great Depression for a whopping $1 million, the Fox – at 2,300 seats – was the largest and only air-conditioned performance space in the city. Known for its decorative, eye-popping murals, the Fox hosted both films and live stage performances featuring a parade of Hollywood celebrities.

For more than four decades, the Fox held its own as a first-run movie house in a bustling downtown entertainment and shopping district. But as suburban malls and multiplexes began to lure moviegoers away from downtown, the theater began a period of decline. By 2000, the Fox was slated for demolition to make way for a parking lot.

When Spokane resident Myrtle Woldson provided a $3 million gift to jumpstart the theater’s restoration, a unique public-private partnership was born. Reopened in 2007 after years of diligent fundraising and a meticulous $31 million restoration, the Fox is today a multi-use performing arts facility and the home of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra. The painstaking project included the removal of years of dirt, grime and popcorn grease and restoring the theater’s original murals, marquees, light fixtures and interior finishes.           

“The Fox Theater is a community treasure and is a key part of the ongoing economic revitalization of Spokane’s historic downtown,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Even when the Fox’s stage is bare, the building’s murals, plasterwork and light fixtures put on a show worthy of a standing ovation.”

The 2010 National Preservation Awards are sponsored by American Express. Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation, said, “Congratulations to all 23 award recipients for their extraordinary work in protecting America’s heritage. As American Express expands its commitment to historic preservation, we’re honored to recognize the dedicated individuals who are saving places that matter across the nation.”

The award will be presented to Brenda Nienhouse, Executive Director of the Fox Theatre, at the National Preservation Awards ceremony in Austin, Texas, on Friday, October 29, at 6PM CST. Co-recipients are: Keith Comes, AIA, NAC Architecture; Charles Cosler, Charles Cosler Theatre Design; Jeff Greene EverGreene Architectural Arts, Inc.; Mark Holden, JaffeHolden Acoustics; Ed Walker, Walker Construction, Inc.; David Green, The Fox Board of Directors; Ronald Stanley, Spokane Symphony Board of Trustees; and Kelly Lordan, Spokane Preservation Advocates.

The National Preservation Awards are bestowed on distinguished individuals, nonprofit organizations, public agencies and corporations whose skill and determination have given new meaning to their communities through preservation of our architectural and cultural heritage. These efforts include citizen attempts to save and maintain important landmarks; companies and craftsmen whose work restores the richness of the past; the vision of public officials who support preservation projects and legislation in their communities; and educators and journalists who help Americans understand the value of preservation. The winners of the National Preservation Awards will appear in the January/February issue of Preservation Magazine and online at

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