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S. Oregon Coast's Liberty Theatre Makes National Register of Historic Places

Published 07/18/23 at 6:51 a.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

S. Oregon Coast's Liberty Theatre Makes National Register of Historic Places

(North Bend, Oregon) – A south Oregon coast landmark has become even more so, as North Bend's Liberty Theatre is officially designated as part of the National Register of Historic places. (Photo courtesy Liberty Theatre Restoration Project)

Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) made the announcement last week, after the National Park Service recently accepted the recommendation from a meeting last February of the Oregon State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation (SACHP).

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At the northern end of downtown North Bend, the Liberty Theatre has been around since 1924, sitting at the corner of Sherman and Washington avenues. It will be one hundred years old next year, having been completed in 1924, built by Salem contractors Hoover and McNeil. Designed by Portland architectural firm Tourtellotte and Hummel, it's of a Moorish-inspired design with towers done in step with the Art Deco splashes of the times. It's typified by arched entryways, stucco and decorative copper domes, and a host of beautiful details.

In the '20 and '30s, as the Coos Bay area was just emerging from being a frontier town, the Liberty served as a hub of entertainment, hosting live Sunday concerts, lectures and even high school plays. It went talkie on July 9, 1929, not long after the sound system was implemented in the grand auditorium. This gem was even a community center in some ways for the south Oregon coast town.

“The theatre is significant for its association with the history and development of entertainment and recreation in the North Bend area and the growth of that city during the early 1920s period,” said OPRD.


In 1954, the theatre stopped showing movies. A few years later, in 1959, the Liberty Theatre became the home of Little Theater on the Bay, which now stands as the oldest community theater group on the Oregon coast and among the oldest in the entire state.

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As the new millennium rolled around, 2015 saw the Liberty Theatre go through a variety of restoration projects, rehabilitating the interior and exterior in extensive ways. Original windows were brought back, parts of the outside that were non-historic treatments were removed, it was repainted colors that were historically accurate, and crews put back the copper roof-top domes. The main lobby was upgraded as well as the auditorium itself.

Also on the National Register of Historic Places in the Coos Bay area are Cape Arago Site, Chandler Hotel and Annex, Coos Bay National Bank Building and the Coos Bay Bridge along with some archaeological sites.

The National Park Service Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants Program provided some of the funds for the State Historic Preservation Office's work on getting this local icon nominated. The grant program fosters economic development in rural communities through the rehabilitation of historic buildings in those communities.

The National Register is maintained by the National Park Service under the authority of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

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This effort is in line with Oregon’s Statewide Preservation Plan that seeks to increase the number of listings in the National Register. It also supports the goals to increase access to Oregon heritage that are part of the Oregon Heritage Plan.

Properties listed in the National Register are:

Recognized as significant to the nation, state, or community;
Considered in the planning of federal or federally-assisted projects;
Eligible for federal and state tax benefits;
Qualify for historic preservation grants when funds are available;
Eligible for leniency in meeting certain building code requirements;
Subject to local laws pertaining to the conservation and protection of historic resources.

State law in Oregon requires local governments to offer a minimal level of protection for properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places; the decisions about how to accomplish that goal reside with local governments, which also have the authority to create and regulate local historic districts and landmarks.

More information about the National Register and recent Oregon listings are online at oregonheritage.org (listed under “Designate”).



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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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