Washington Performance Hall, for over one hundred years the scene of important events for a broad cross-section of Central Area people, has been nominated for preservation as a historic landmark. The initial meeting of the Landmarks Preservation Board to consider the nomination will be next Wednesday, November 19, in Room 4060 of the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue. The meeting begins at 3:30, and with other items on the agenda it’s estimated that Washington Performance Hall will be considered at 4:30 or later. Historic Seattle emphasizes that it’s important for the Landmarks Preservation Board to see and hear neighborhood support for a nomination such as this.
Documents supporting the nomination (filed by 4Culture — the King County Arts organization) including current and historical exterior and interior pictures as well as a fascinating narrative can be seen on the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods Web site at: http://www.seattle.gov/neighborhoods/preservation/landmarks_ (follow the link to Washington Hall).
Washington Hall is one hundred years old this year, having been completed in 1908 by the Danish Brotherhood in America. For decades the building served as a fraternal lodge and center for the social and cultural activites of Danish immigrants. African Americans also used Washington Hall for community and cultural events, beginning early in its history. Among many other uses, Sephardic Jewish communities also occupied Washington Hall for religious services, Yiddish plays were performed, and the Filipino organizations held meetings and dances.
Renowned performers who appeared at Washington Hall include Billie Holiday, Jimi Hendrix, Lawrence Felinghettis, Spalding Gray, Mark Morris, Bill T. Jones, and many, many more, as well as possibly Duke Ellington, Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, and Count Basie.
From 1978 to 1998 On the Boards made its home at Washington Hall. Following that, NuBlackArts West presented its programs there.
The building is owned by the Sons of Haiti, a Masonic lodge, which listed the property for sale earlier this year. 4Culture and Historic Seattle have worked to find owners or tenants who could continue the building’s use as an important cultural resource.