First Stage reconstruction starts soon

June 29, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

The effort to replace the original Village Theatre — the frontier-era relic known as First Stage Theatre — inched ahead last week.

Crews closed the sidewalk in front of the historic building, and detoured pedestrians through wooden scaffolding built adjacent to the street. The sidewalk closure runs through March 2011.

Plans call for the existing structure to be razed in coming weeks, and for a modern theater to replace the almost century-old building at 120 Front St. N.

A rendering shows how the completed First Stage will appear. Contributed

Traffic passes the temporary sidewalk June 28 in front of the Village Theatre First Stage building at 120 Front Street N., as extensive renovations begin. By Greg Farrar

Crews from contractor Foushée & Associates, a Bellevue builder, started to disassemble the building last week. Construction should start on the new theater in July, theater spokeswoman Michelle Sanders said.

The builder intends to incorporate wood and other components, such as the iconic sign, from the historic theater into the planned building. Executives intend for the First Stage building to be LEED certified.

The city plans to update the permit after the builder determines a staging area for the demolition.

Built in 1913, the building then known as Issaquah Theater showed silent films in the early years. But the building had fallen into disrepair by the late 1970s. Village Theatre opened in the space in 1979.

Despite several stopgap restoration projects, the building continued to deteriorate, prompting calls for additional renovations. Moreover, the building lacks a foundation. The stage and audience seating areas needed overhauls as well.

Initial plans called for a renovation, but after theater executives realized the extent of the decay, they opted to tear down the building and start anew.

Until the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre — often referred to as the Mainstage — opened in 1994, the theater presented shows at First Stage Theatre. The building housed the KIDSTAGE and Village Originals programs after the Mainstage opened.

Both Tony Award-winning Village Theatre musicals — “Next to Normal” and “Million Dollar Quartet” — originated at First Stage Theatre.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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2 Responses to “First Stage reconstruction starts soon”

  1. Anonymous on July 1st, 2010 9:56 am

    How sad that instead of preserving the historic theater and a great marketing asset that the management decided to go the cheap-and-easy route and destroy this landmark. Issaquah needs to preserve and protect the charm of its downtown, not create a mainstreet that looks like Anywhere, USA — and therefore is nothing special at all. Boo.

  2. Vaughn on November 27th, 2010 5:18 am

    Every time we lose a part of our history, we lose a part of ourselves, forever!
    This is one of the reasons I created PIHA (Paranormal Investigations of Historic America). We only investigate museums, historical sites and historical communities in Washington state. We do this to feature these historic locations in the media and to encourage families to visit a museum or historical community (like Issaquah) and learn about our fascinating history an d the people who made it.
    We also do all that we can to help preserve our history and not distroy it. Our forefathers did this for us and we have the “RESPONSIBILITY” to preserve our history and historic sites for our grandchildren. Not distroy it.
    If there are other historic sites in Issaquah that are open to the public and have a history of paranormal activity, then you can contact us to schedule a free paranormal investigation of that building. We don’t investigate abandoned buildings, cemeteries or private homes, only museums and historical sites that are open to the public.
    To view our video series of Historic Hauntings of Washington State go to KING 5 TV’s website at and enter PIHA into their “Search” box. We create a DVD video for every investigation we schedule and are able to obtain any evidence of paranormal activity.
    Please Issaquah business owners, find a way to preserve our historic sites, not distroy them. They were there long before you owned them and hopefully, they will be there long after your gone.
    Good luck, Vaughn
    PIHA Case Manager/Historian/Founder

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