I n 1928, the heyday of the movie palace in America, famed theater architects Rapp & Rapp’s opulent 3000-seat, Italian Rococo Revival-style venue opened as Portland Public Theatre on SW Broadway. The massive sign above the marquee first proclaimed “Portland” in 6,000 dazzling lights but was amended to read “Paramount” to match the new namesake in the early ‘30s. Paramount Theatre thrived as a cinema, event space for proms and weddings, and host to wide-ranging musical acts, such as Sinatra and Madonna, before decades of disrepair led to condemnation. The city purchased the theater as part of the new downtown performing arts complex – Portland’5 Centers for the Arts – and renamed it The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in honor of a top donor to the $10 million dollar restoration. In a nod to history, the renovation, completed in 1984, included a return to the original wording of the “Portland” sign. The now-iconic sign, refurbished in 2017 for $500,000, is 65 feet high and 12 feet wide!

Historic photographs for this series are provided by the Oregon Historical Society, a museum, research library, archive, and scholarly asset located in the heart of Portland’s Cultural District. View more photos of historic Portland on the new OHS Digital Collections website here.

Have an anecdote or old school photograph of you posing in front of the Schnitzer? Post it! Don’t forget to tag #Artslandia and #OurStagesThenAndNow