Broadway Center for the Performing Arts is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in the historic Theater District (901 Broadway) of downtown Tacoma, Washington. Encompassing the Pantages, Rialto, and Theatre on the Square, the Broadway Center manages the largest complex of theaters between Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. Additionally, The Broadway Center Conservatory and Education Department provide one of the largest performing arts education programs in Washington State. Since 1918, the Broadway Center has been host to many famous figures and World-class artists such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, Babe Ruth, Ronald Reagan, Hal Holbrook, Debbie Reynolds, Martin Short, Queen Latifah, Joan Rivers, and Wanda Sykes.
The block now occupied by the Pantages Theater was once the site of a saloon, Tacoma's first library, and Tacoma's first department store. In 1908, William Jones of Walla Walla bought the block and razed the buildings. Soon after, Greek immigrant Alexander Pantages arrived in the northwest with dreams of owning a chain of beautiful vaudeville theaters across the country. Thanks to financial assistance from his mistress and business partner, “Klondike” Kate Rockwell, Pantages and Jones were able to raise the funds for the combination Jones Building and Pantages Theater, which cost $400,000.
Hailed as "the ultimate photoplay house," the Beaux-Arts style Rialto Theater opened September 7, 1918. Tacoma's Rialto was part of a national movie house chain and as such, the stage space, orchestra pit and dressing rooms were at a bare minimum. The lobby was also considerably smaller than what is present today. These vaudeville-era theater architects concentrated on the auditorium, seeking acoustically successful theaters and concert halls as models for the ones they designed. The Rialto resembles Vienna's 1916 Redoutensaal, the first "shoe box" shaped orchestral hall. The original ornate plaster decorations include replicas of cupids and patriotic eagles, which remain in good shape today.
Theatre on the Square
The third theater, Theatre on the Square, was designed by architects Broome, Oringdulph, O'Toole, Rudolf, Boles and Associates of Portland, Oregon, with Jones & Roberts Company of Lacey overseeing construction. $11.8 million raised from private and public sectors provided the foundation for a revitalized theater district. Opened in October 1993, the 302-seat theater and a new rehearsal hall sit adjacent to the Pantages. Theatre on the Square has full production capabilities including a rehearsal room, scene shop, costume shop, and storage areas.