Food & Culture

Backstory: What’s Really Inside the Downtown Seattle Banana Republic Store

A downtown retailer holds a secret from the golden age of cinema

By Beau Iverson April 17, 2019


This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the April 2019 issue. Click here to subscribe.

The Landmark: The Coliseum Theater
The Location: Downtown, 1512 Fifth Ave.
The Backstory: The Banana Republic store at the corner of Fifth and Pike in Seattle offers more than clothing and accessories. The building itself is a treasure from our city’s cultural heritage: Seattle’s first cinema. The Coliseum Theater opened as a lavish “photoplay palace” in 1916, boasting luxurious decor and amenities that included a smoking room, caged songbirds and an in-house orchestra. But by the 1980s, the single-screen theater had become an antique, shutting its doors in 1990; in 1994, Banana Republic became the building’s star tenant.

Yet some of the theater’s past remains, and you can see it if you ask store staff. Ascend a worn concrete stairwell behind a door on the store’s west side and you’ll arrive at what was once the theater’s balcony. The remnants of the building’s former life are still intact, from its sculptural plaster trim to the orderly rows of concrete that used to anchor its seats (which, along with other relics, such as neon signs, have been relocated to the basement).

Back on the retail floor, you may view the store’s decorative Greek reliefs in a new light, too—they are also artifacts from the theater, serving as subtle reminders of our city’s cinematic history, right in the middle of the bustling present.

Taylor Swift/YouTube

New auditorium, better BMX track and a greener Seattle

Casket Case Bellevue company’s product featured in Taylor Swift video Social media absolutely lost it after a casket manufactured by Bellevue-based Titan Casket was featured in American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift’s recent “Anti-Hero” music video. Tweets and Instagram posts from Swift’s fans about the casket have generated tens of thousands of likes and retweets, resulting in…

Act Theater: History of Theatre group shot-cropped

Seattle Celebrates Black History Month

A guide to events happening throughout the city in February

From the Northwest African American Museum to the Museum of Pop Culture, Seattle residents have an abundance of opportunities to celebrate the achievements of African Americans in February during Black History Month. The annual celebration began in the United States in 1976. Countries around the world also celebrate the month. Here’s a guide to events…

Photography by Tyree Harris

Book Excerpt: Marmots May Be Running Out of Time

New book explores endangered species in Pacific Northwest

In her debut as a book author, Josephine Woolington turns back the clock to examine events that have shaped Pacific Northwest wildlife in an effort to provide a deeper sense of place for those who call this unique and beautiful region home. Where We Call Home: Lands, Seas, and Skies of the Pacific Northwest sheds…

Illustration by Arthur Mount

Seattle Artifacts: The Mystery of Chief Seattle’s Death Mask

Is it real? Where did it come from?

In different parts of the world, and throughout the course of history, death has been memorialized in a variety of different ways. One of the more intriguing was death masks. Typically, a wax or plaster cast was made of a deceased person’s face, which then served as a model for sculptors when creating statues and busts.  …

Photography by Sage Chen

The Art of Weathering Winter: Foraging, Bathing, and Gold Dust

Two Seattle chefs on the soothing hobbies that get them through the winter

Though I’ve lived in Seattle nearly my entire life, the early winter sunsets, which fall like a set of blackout curtains over the world, never fail to feel like a curse. This year, though, I wanted to challenge myself to find a better way to get through it. Could it be an opportunity to surrender…

DSC_5132 copy 2 hero-min

Hip-Hop Healing in Seattle

Rapper Carter Costello’s house is more than just a venue for artists

The last time I was at Seattle rapper Carter Costello’s house was under the cloak of night. I had been invited to an art and music show — featuring Seattle photographer and artist Baby Claypool, a duo of fire dancers, rapper Nobi and Costello — by local photographer James Gerde. Once I set foot on…