Columbia City Theatre was built in 1919 and today is the oldest existing Vaudeville theatre in Seattle. Since its inception in what is now marked an historic Seattle neighborhood, this landmark theatre has been an underground mecca of culture and host to some of Seattle’s most well-known icons.
Since its inception, the theatre has been host to many different forms of artistic display. Its original name was the Columbia City Theatre, but that too has changed numerous times over the past 86 years to include various cinemas; a Kung Fu studio where Bruce Lee held exhibitions; a practice and performance space for Jimi Hendrix before he hit the big time; and an underground jazz club that hosted Quincy Jones in the 60’s. For a time in the 70’s it became a hedonistic disco club.
In the 80’s Columbia City Theatre was called the “Barracades,” an underground club used by punk bands for their live shows. The 90’s found the theatre transformed into Seattle’s most used and recognized space for underground raves which showcased some of the world’s most well-known DJ’s.
The 21st century has ushered in a new era for Columbia City Theatre. Under the direction of its new owner Craig Dieffenbach, the theatre has been completely restored and now includes a multimedia theatre and state of the art recording and live broadcast studio. During its first years under new management, and before the most recent build-out, dozens of elite bands, DJ’s and broadcast companies have utilized the facility. Amazon.com presented an internet broadcast show with Aimee Mann and Michael Penn for the first public release of her “Magnolia” movie soundtrack.
PBS television produced a stand-up comedy series called “Comics from A to Z” which broadcast nationally. Virgin Records hosted Ben Harper’s CD release party at Columbia City Theatre, and Entercom produced a series of “End Session” shows with similar productions by Fisher Broadcasting, Clear Channel and Infinity Broadcasting at the Columbia City Theatre.
The restoration occurred in three phases and started in late 2001. The new restaurant “Tutta Bella” opened in January 2004, the grand opening of the main theatre occurred in December 2004. The grand entrance to the theatre along with the original theatre marquee and a 40-foot turn-of-the-century bar are scheduled to open in June 2005.