Food & Culture

What’s Next for the Harvard Exit

Seattle’s Harvard Exit succumbs to the city’s new priorities

By Brangien Davis February 16, 2015


This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Seattle Magazine.

The Harvard Exit, which screened its final film in mid-January, didn’t start out as an art house movie theater. The Woman’s Century Club (WCC), a group of progressive Seattle women founded in 1891, had the building constructed as a clubhouse for its burgeoning membership (which included Seattle Mayor Bertha Landes).

A WCC history book explains that the social club “had its inception in the minds of a half dozen women who felt its need in the sordid atmosphere of a rapidly developing western city.” With the 1960s, however, the club’s membership began to flag (perhaps as women became less interested in convening in a parlor to discuss intellectual matters and more drawn to burning bras in city parks).

The WCC sold the building in 1968, when it became the decidedly funky Harvard Exit, ever since beloved for running independent and foreign films rarely shown elsewhere. Fast-forward and cultural relevancy has caused another shift in the building’s use. While there is less interest in going out to movies than in streaming them at home on a small screen, our societal hunger for restaurants and bars is apparently bottomless. In December, Seattle’s Scott Shapiro, known for developing the popular Melrose Market on Capitol Hill, announced that he had purchased the Harvard Exit from Landmark Theatres, and over the next year will transform it into a bar and restaurant, with offices above.

While the silver lining is that the building façade will be kept intact, the change nonetheless adds to the feeling of a “sordid atmosphere”—at least culturally—in this rapidly developing western city.


Join The Must List

Seattle's best events delivered to your inbox

Follow Us




In September 2017, I founded Dan’s Tunes, a small publication focused on showcasing Seattle’s local music scene. Throughout the past five years, I have spent countless hours talking with musicians, artists, and other industry folks about the state of the current music climate in Seattle. When we’re on the record, everyone always has nice things…

Min Jin Lee on taking 28 years to write a novel

Min Jin Lee on taking 28 years to write a novel

Insights on life and writing from the bestselling author of Pachinko

Min Jin Lee is a little freaked out about her next novel — a “stupidly” ambitious project about what education means to Korean people across the globe. “I want to stop,” she told me on a call, laughing a bit at her own obsessive nature. As with her previous two books — Pachinko and Free…

Your Favorite Authors Might Very Well be in Seattle this Weekend—Here’s How to Catch Them

Your Favorite Authors Might Very Well be in Seattle this Weekend—Here’s How to Catch Them

The nation’s largest literary conference will be hosted March 8-11, and includes hundreds of offsite events around town.

Book lovers, rejoice: there’s a good chance one of your favorite writers will be out and about Seattle in the next week. You may even be able to catch them giving a free talk at one of your local bars or cafés. From March 8-11, more than 8,000 authors, poets, educators, and editors will descend…

New auditorium, better BMX track and a greener Seattle

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…