Nestled in picturesque Chelan, WA, the Ruby Theatre was constructed in 1913 and still has many of the trademark playhouse features today. According to the Wikipedia article on the theatre, the theatre was “named after Ruby Potter, the daughter of its manager, Frank Potter.” It was constructed by brothers Herbert R. Kingman and Morrison M. Kingman, who also built several other locally famous buildings in town.
Now, the Wikipedia article goes on to say, “Potter moved his operation from the storefront Gem Theater to the Kingman’s new Ruby when the Kingman’s purpose-built theater opened. Competition initially came from the Auditorium, which burned shortly after the Ruby opened in 1913. Potter and his wife were killed in 1918. The next year the Kingmans sold the theater to a barber named Kelsey from Omak.” The competition burned down? He and his wife were killed? This sounds like it deserves some further research…
I searched Ancestry.com and found this newspaper article, which I confirmed through their online archives:
The Ellensburg Capital, June 19, 1919
KILLS WIFE AND SELF
A tragedy, the worst in local history, was enacted at Vantage ferry, on the Columbia river, Sunday night about 11 o’clock, and the survival of a witness made all facts easily obtainable in what would otherwise have been a deep mystery. This witness was Rubby (sic) Potter, adopted daughter of Mrs. F. J. Potter, whose husband has been operating the inter-county ferry at Vantage. At the hour named, Potter entered the room of his 15-year old foster daughter and attacked her with criminal intent but her resistance was so determined that his designs were thwarted and he left her and went down stairs, where he sent a bullet crashing through the head of his sleeping wife and then ended his own life by shooting himself in the temple. Death in both cases was instantaneous.
The unfortunate girl remained alone in the house with the dead until Monday morning at 9 o’clock when tourists arrived to whom she told her story and word was soon sent outside. Coroner Gregory summoned a jury and an inquest was held there. The girl gave a straight and impressive story that was entirely convincing to the jury and the verdict was in accordance with this horrible tale, the details of which would not bear printing. The bodies were brought to Ellensburg and prepared for burial by the Bridghein(?) undertaking establishment. The father of the murderer lived at Trinidad and was soon on the ground. He has brothers and sisters in different parts of the Northwest, while his victim’s parents live in Ohio.
Potter has been running the Vantage ferry across the Columbia river and the commissioners of both counties were greatly pleased with his work, as he was a mechanical genius, kept his machinery in perfect working order and always took pride in all he did. His wife and adopted daughter conducted the Vantage Inn, which they kept in a neat and attractive shape and they enjoyed a good patronage.
There seems to be no reason to try to account for the horrible crime committed by Potter; it is enough to conclude that the man was insanely infatuated with his foster daughter, which is borne out by the fact that he told his intended victim that it was useless to make an outcry, as her mother would not wake up for three hours, showing that he had given his wife a sleeping potion.
The tragedy certainly created a sensation in the entire community and was deeply regretted by every one.
So he did have a daughter named Ruby, and he and his wife were killed in 1919, but this says he worked as a ferryman on the Columbia River, and I’m assuming lived in Vantage, WA, which is almost 2 hrs away from Chelan by current transport. I’m pretty sure that the Columbia River doesn’t connect to Lake Chelan easily…whitewater rapids perhaps. Not accessible via ferry. A mystery unfolds…
Now onto that fire. Here is from an old Lake Chelan Historical Society publication:
“In addition to building the large Campbell home in Chelan in 1890, (A.F.) Cox also designed and built the Hotel Chelan in 1901 and the Chelan Auditorium in 1902.
The Auditorium was a massive building with balcony located in the general area of the present city library (in 2004 the city hall) and fire station. It seated 700 comfortably and it is recorded that another 100 crowded in for a Saturday evening Thespian play.
It was heated by one large wood fueled stove, and during winter activities there those in front would bake, and those to the rear, freeze.
It burned down one night in the late twenties, and they say it took the embers three days to cool.”
No mention was made as to the cause of the fire, but it seems awfully convenient for the Ruby to have their competition burn down so soon after they opened. Yet another mystery of the Ruby Theatre.
To see what’s playing next, visit the theatre’s website.