Fly Loft

Featured image: The red circle locates the black room where the fly loft of the former theater building once stood.

Well, I thought they were talking about the structural parts of the building — its Bones. “This old building still got good Bones,” the crew chief would say, way too many times, accompanied by an obvious round of eye contact between the other three crew members who called him “Boss.”

The knowing looks between them seem obvious in hindsight but my mind at the time was on the 30-foot drop to the floor below, the old stage floor. The unfinished floor above ended at a large opening with a quickly built staircase along the west wall. The absence of a handrail gently pushed me toward the wall and I hugged it close, one step at a time, all the way up.

But the view!

High above the stage floor of the old theater, built where the fly loft once held scenic flats, painted drops, even a thunder machine, and a snowfall sling of black velour, the view took in the Cascade Mountain Range to the left, the Snohomish River Valley straight-ahead and the watery planet of Puget Sound to the west.

Plus it was a super bright, super clear day with a spectacular stack of clouds hovering just above the bright, thin line of the horizon. A burning bowl of sweet bud was passed to me and I welcomed the opportunity to experience this indigenous culture where I found myself.

The small crew was “stoked.” It took less than two weeks for the “dudes” to dismantle the old stage house tower piece-by-piece, then build an 800 square foot room with huge windows.

If the windows opened it would be tempting to fly, I thought, taking in the view, wondering where are the dreams d’anten?

The only bummer note was a visit from Sharon, the city’s building inspector. She informed them that once they got the building weathertight they would need to apply for a permit that specifies external changes — their current permit was for inside work only. The new permit would require application with the Design Review Board, she told them.

“What the fuck?” Was the crew’s unanimous, boisterous reaction egged-on by the Boss. The glass pipe came around again. “It’s Blue Dream from Hanger 420 — the three-gram bag is a nice price!” said the “dude” who passed me the pipe.

Started to explain “ordinances”… but I was intimidated by this group of blond young men with zero body flat and full heads of long hair held in place with their hats on backward. Only the Boss had a dark, bushy beard; and they were loaded, as high as this place in the sky, built by their labor.

Besides, I wanted to know more about what it was like in the old fly loft before they took it apart. Discover anything interesting, like old scenery, I wondered?

Stoned silence. All eyes were downcast suddenly studying their work boots. They looked brand new.

“Did you find any bones?” I joked, thinking of something to break the ice.


. . .

What’s Going On with the Old Lon Brown Theater Building?

Featured Image: Note in the upper right-hand corner that the stage house tower has been replaced by a wall with a window — still under construction!

The former theater building on First Street in Snohomish, January 2012, showing the red stage house tower backing up to the river.

The historic Lon Brown Theater building, at 1003 First Street, opened on October 9, 1924, with live theater acts and two sold-out screenings of the silent movie, Hold Your Breath, at 7 and 9 pm. Fans spilled out into First Street, blocking traffic … eventually dispersing over the years, it finally closed in 1999.

The theater building, fully equipped with a fly loft for raising and lowering scenery, plus dressing rooms for 60 persons, opened with the new millennium as the Pegasus Theatre Shops. A tourist trap kind of place that erased any trace of its previous life holding live theater. The business moved to Las Vegas a couple of years ago leaving behind a run-down building littered with unsold stuff too large to move.

New owners arrived with the new year, 2020, moving the abandoned stuff to the sidewalk to give away, then discovering a dangerously water damaged stage house tower. It was quietly taken down by a small crew that is now building out an 800 square foot perch featuring oversized windows high above the Snohomish River Valley.

Captured from the River Front Trail on Thursday morning, May 7th with unidentified figures standing on the new roof alongside all that remains of the stage tower wall still attached to the chimmey.

Snohomish StoriesShort alley view off Avenue A showing the backstage double doors for loading scenery.

Looking east from the Kla Ha Ya Park showing the small crew working on the stage tower in the horizon.

Captured Friday morning, May 8th, showing the oversized windows already in place.

Close up view of what remains of the stage tower wall still attached to the chimmey.

On Friday, May 8th, Sharon Petitt, the city’s Building Inspector, visited the site to met with the contractor when she heard his story of the urgency and reasons for tearing down the stage house tower. Ms. Petitt issued a correction report that a permit is required and Design Review. The owner’s permit was for interior work only.

Owners planning external alterations to their structures located in the Historic District are required to submit their plans to the Design Review Board (DRB), a citizen board charged with maintaining design standards for the district. A copy of the standards is available from city hall or online. The public is invited to all DRB meetings and is encouraged in this case.

Pieces of the stage house walls of red painted sheet metal in the dumpster.

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Undated photo of the Lon Brown Theater found on the internet.

It’s my understanding that early in its history, the stage welcomed community presentations — I’d love to learn more — please comment below with your experience, or contact me. We will feature your stories in our October post: “Remembering the Lon Brown Theater.” Included as well will be an online screening of the theater’s first movie: Hold Your Breath.

This October, the Lon Brown Theater building will be four years short of its 100th Anniversary.

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