The Ruby Theatre

Ruby Theatre PlaqueNestled 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.

Initial Theatre Interior

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 and found this newspaper article, which I confirmed through their online archives:

The Ellensburg Capital, June 19, 1919


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.Ruby Theatre Street View

I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education since 1995. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Child Development. In my free time, I love LEGO, ballet, ballroom dancing, eating out, traveling, history, architecture, genealogy, and people.

Snohomish Street Clock

Snohomish Street ClockI took a picture of this street clock in Snohomish, WA thinking it was pretty, and that I would get around to researching its history later. (My photo is to the left. I stole the one above off of Pinterest because it offers a much better view of the clock face.) The downtown Snohomish area is a historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places, so everything here that looks old and pretty is probably worth researching. Then my dad was showing me his photos of town, and he had photographed the same clock…and showed me that the 11 was missing! The clock has two number twelves! I went back to town and checked the other side – no 11 there either! One of the many examples in my life of how I should pay more attention to the details.

Now on with the history. Not very many companies made street clocks in the early 1900’s, and the styling of the clock is the giveaway for which company made it. This clock was made by the Brown Street Clock Company. I found this bit on a clock collectors message board:

The Brown Street Clock Company manufactured street clocks in Monessen, PA (south of Pittsburgh) from 1906 until the mid-1920’s. While not as grand as the street clocks sold by Seth Thomas and E Howard, nevertheless the Brown Street Clock company sold hundreds of street clocks to jewelers and others that perhaps could not afford the more expensive clocks offered by the competition.

I also found who estimated it was made between 1910 -1915 based on the clocks distinguishing features. The building that it sits in front of was built in 1907 and held the First National Bank of Snohomish for over 50 years (according to, the state’s nonprofit history repository), so this date makes sense. But wait! Here’s a photo of downtown Snohomish from the 1920’s (from the Centennial Trail website), and it shows the clock across the street from its current location. Hmm…Downtown Snohomish 1920ishSo when did it move? And why doesn’t it have a number eleven? This clock is much more interesting than I originally thought!

I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education since 1995. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Child Development. In my free time, I love LEGO, ballet, ballroom dancing, eating out, traveling, history, architecture, genealogy, and people.

Overseas Highway

Wow, what a beautiful drive! Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this incredibly scenic drive was originally the Overseas Railroad, envisioned by Henry Morrison Flagler and completed in 1912.

"Florida east coast causeway to Key West (CJ Allen, Steel Highway, 1928)" by Andy Dingley (scanner) - Scan from Allen, Cecil J. (1928) The Steel Highway, London: Longmans, Green & Co., pp. facing page. 72 (I). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -,_Steel_Highway,_1928).jpg#/media/File:Florida_east_coast_causeway_to_Key_West_(CJ_Allen,_Steel_Highway,_1928).jpg
“Florida east coast causeway to Key West (CJ Allen, Steel Highway, 1928)” by Andy Dingley (scanner) – Scan from Allen, Cecil J. (1928) The Steel Highway, London: Longmans, Green & Co., pp. facing page. 72 (I).

While exploring this area, I found an interesting building located on Spanish Harbor Key that I believe is an old storage building from the construction of the original building

Unfortunately, the railroad met a tragic and dramatic demise in 1935 with the great Labor Day Hurricane. I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia article on the storm for a brief summary, or if you have time for a more detailed account, I really liked the one found here by Willie Drye. You can also read the statements before congress about the event of Honorable James Hardin Peterson, Honorable J. Mark Wilcox, Julius F. Stone Jr., Conrad Van Hyning, Ray W. Sheldon, Ivan R. Tannehill, Willis Ray Gregg, Charles P. Albury, Dr. James T. Googe, Hubert G. McKenzie, Frederick Bruce Ghent, Edwin A. Pynchon, David W. Kennamer, George E. Ijams, General Frank T. Hines, M. E. Gilfond, Harry B. Wirin, Aubrey W. Williams, Joseph F. Fecteau, S. C. Cutler, Harold Langlois, Laura Van Ness, and Governor David Sholtz in the hearing proceedings here.

After the railroad was destroyed, the government bought the land & immediately began work converting it to a road for cars. This is a road filled with bridges and scenic vistas, the most impressive of these is “Seven mile bridge” connecting the city of Marathon to Little Duck Key. Cars currently drive on the second iteration of the bridge, the first being unsafe to drive any longer. Old 7 mile bridge cross section

Every April, the bridge is closed for one Saturday morning for a bridge run to commemorate the completion of the newer bridge sections. The old bridge has had sections removed to allow for unrestricted sailboat passage, but it is still accessible to pedestrians and bicycle traffic from the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trailhead.

I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education since 1995. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Child Development. In my free time, I love LEGO, ballet, ballroom dancing, eating out, traveling, history, architecture, genealogy, and people.

Kirkland Arts Center

The Kirkland Arts Center is an absolutely beautiful restoration of an historical building that was almost demolished at one point in its history. Take a look at these photos of the art gallery inside & you can see that the original brick has all remained exposed, the original ceiling beams are visible, and every effort has been made to keep as much of this building’s original character as possible. You can really feel the history in the walls here!

KAC gallery

KAC historical marker

KAC interior looking to rear wall

Interior of KAC entryway
Interior of KAC entryway
Interior of KAC gallery
Interior of KAC gallery

KAC Side Entrance

Chandelier hanging in Kirkland Arts Center gallery
Chandelier hanging in Kirkland Arts Center gallery

Outside of the building, the Kirkland Historical Society has erected this plaque to let passers-by learn a little more about the history of this place:

KAC Dedication Plaque
KAC Dedication Plaque


The Peter Kirk Building – Founded Upon A Dream

The Peter Kirk building was conceived as the keystone of English entrepreneur Kirk’s steel empire and as a major spoke in the hub of activity on the corners of Market & Piccadilly (now Seventh Avenue).Ground was broken in 1889 for the two-story brick building, which was raised upon a foundation of dizzying optimism in a period of economic expansion. Kirk and his Seattle business partners, Seattle Post-Intelligencer owner Leigh S.J. Hunt, A. A. Denny, George Heilbron and with fellow Englishman Walter W. Williams as Secretary, envisioned the Moss Bay Iron and Steel Works of America as the “Pittsburg of the West.” Together they forged the Kirkland Land and Improvement Company, incorporated in 1888, as the administrative aegis for the iron works.

Bricks for the building were produced from locally dug clay and fired at Kirk’s brick works, which which was located in what is now Peter Kirk Park. The building, a quintessentially Victorian construction, was designed in the Romanesque Revival style, which borrowed elements from European architecture of the eleventh and twelfth centuries such as semi-circular arches, turrets, recessed doors and windows, and heavy materials like rusticated stone and brick. Initially, the first floor housed the Guptil and Evans Dry Goods Store and Elder Drug. Kirk’s offices occupied the second floor.

Kirk’s dream for an industrial magnet on the shores of Lake Washington were thwarted by economic realities and crashed with the financial upheaval of 1893. Although the steel mill never opened, Kirk remained an active town booster. He eventually retired to the San Juan Islands where he died in 1916 at the age of 76.

Fortunately, the beautiful Peter Kirk building did not vanish with Kirk’s faded dreams. The structure changed ownership and usages, but remained a central component of the Kirkland landscape. The second floor was later converted to apartments. Over the years, the first floor housed a butcher shop, a grocery store, and a furniture store, including the Eastside Furniture Store, owned by Kirkland’s youngest mayor, Al Leland, in the 1940’s.

By the early 1960’s, the Peter Kirk Building was deteriorating due to years of neglect. The owner was barely able to make ends meet. Without intervention, the structure was likely to be demolished. But hope was just around the corner. Or, rather, on the second floor.

In 1973, the Peter Kirk Building was listed in the National Historic Register. In 1977 the first major renovations were undertaken, supported by local and state funding.

William Radcliffe – Building Community Together

William Radcliffe was a visionary and a pragmatist. He was also a teacher for the Lake Washington School District from 1949-1967. In 1958, he rented the Cupola Room (Kirk’s former office) on the second floor of the Peter Kirk Building, which he used as an art studio. It was one of the few spaces that did not leak in an otherwise dilapidated structure. But Radcliffe saw beyond broken windows and saggy plaster and visualized a community arts center.

It was no wonder he emerged as the instigator and inspiration of the Creative Arts League. As the founder of the Cellar Gallery, Radcliffe was a driving force in the realization of an active Eastside arts community. He and his cohorts called the Peter Kirk Syndicate, a group of attorneys, architects, educators and physicians, rescued the crumbling building from certain demise and were instrumental in establishing a truly community-oriented arts center. In 1961, the Peter Kirk Syndicate organized to purchase the building and, in 1962, to form the Creative Arts League, convened to provide local opportunities in the arts and to address preservation of a Kirkland historic landmark. The enthusiastic support of local businesses, media, artists and other citizens helped realize Radcliffe’s vision.

The Creative Arts League, dedicated volunteer artists and art lovers, as well as members of the Peter Kirk Syndicate, cleaned the building and initiated critically needed repairs. In the meantime, the League offered classes in frame making, ceramics, painting, poetry, drama, dance, puppetry and life drawing as well as operating a small theatre.

Radcliffe’s philosophy, that democracy entails giving people the opportunity to make positive changes in their communities, still fuels the Kirkland Arts Center (KAC) today. A supportive Board of Directors, talented instructors, hardworking staff and dedicated volunteers all contribute to maintaining the Kirkland Arts Center as a vibrant and vital creative hub of the community. KAC continues to offer a range of visual arts classes to students of all ages, as well as the opportunity to learn about new and challenging visions of the world in the Peter Kirk gallery.

KAC Board 2000.

The Kirkland Arts Center nurtures the Eastside arts community, in its home, the historic Peter Kirk Building, where, through classes, workshops,  special events and gallery shows, artists and art lovers of all ages can come together, build creative skills, and broaden their knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the visual arts.

Paul Hughes, President; Susan Glass, Vice President; Tracy Thorleifson, Secretary; Ken Sparks, Treasurer; Merrily Dicks, Historian; Kelli Adam; Marijune Haggard; Judy Harris; Julie Johnson; Susan Street; Jac Wyman; Elizabeth Umbanhowar, Executive Director.

Peter Kirk Syndicate 1961

Shirl & Pat Restemayer; Desmond & Betty Lou Charouhas; Donald & Tatiana Davidson; Jane Gosselin; Robert & Gladys Hayes; Paul & Helen Kirk; Carl & Evelyn Lercher; Maurice & Annette Powell; William & Mary Ann Radcliffe; Raymond & Iris Sievers; J. Earl Taylor.

This interpretive marker was installed in April 2002 to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Kirkland Arts Center. Funding for this project was made possible by Kelli, Daniel and Nicholas Adam.

Photo Caption: Contrast between the old Leland Hotel (right) and Creative Arts League Building across the street was caught in the above photograph. Both were build in the same era by the founding fathers of Kirkland, who came here to establish a steel mill. The steel mill didn’t survive but Kirkland did. Citizens expressed consternation this week that the Leland Hotel was to be razed to make way for a service station. Restoration of the Creative Arts League building by a group of civic-minded citizens shows what can be done to preserve landmarks. (Journal Photo)

“The artist’s role in the community is to lead, the artist’s role is to get people to think things or see things differently, to help get people beyond where they are… to joy, enthusiasm and some sorrow as well.” -William Radcliffe

I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education since 1995. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Professional Child Development. In my free time, I love LEGO, ballet, ballroom dancing, eating out, traveling, history, architecture, genealogy, and people.