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About The Dalles chronicle. (The Dalles, OR) 1998-2020 | View Entire Issue (March 7, 2020)
S P E C I A L
Weekend of March 7-8, 2020 A3
S E C T I O N
in the company of excellence
The theater at The Dalles Civic Auditorium has been restored and remodeled, above, with improved access and functionality. Performances and events have already begun
as work continues in the upstairs balcony.
There are 330,000 veterans in Oregon, but only a
tiny percentage file for benefits, he said. That work
brought him to The Dalles Civic Auditorium, built
as a tribute to World War I veterans, where veteran
services related events have recently been held.
A veteran himself, Rollins was drawn to
the Civic; the theater stage, recently refurbished
and ready for use, was familiar territory for
the songwriter and musician. The building
itself sparked his interest as well as the fact
that the building will be 100 years old in 2021.
The current voyage of the China Clipper
Band is not a replay, however.
“It won’t be the same,” said Barker, who is working
on the animation and video portion of the project. “It
won’t be the original Clipper Ship, but we are going
to produce something that is representative of it.”
An electrician and lighting technician, Barker also
has roots in The Dalles, working as an electrician at
The Dalles Dam prior to joining the Civic team as
restoration work moves into its final stages: Stage and
theater seating has been revamped, there are new
choir risers, lighting and audiovisual equipment is in
place. Performances have already taken to the stage.
Barker said with the restoration of the theater largely
complete, he is excited to move to the next phase.
“Now we can actually start utilizing the
theater as it was designed,” he said. The
video project will be shown daily to visitors
during the season, bringing to life the character
and history of the facility and the mid-
Columbia region. Like the China Clipper
Band project, the theater, dormant for
almost two decades, is ready to be reborn.
About the Civic
The Civic Auditorium was built in The Dalles in
1921. Upon completion, the Civic was dedicated
as a memorial to the local veterans of World
War I, according to the Civic’s website.
During its heyday, it was the venue for local
cultural, entertainment, ceremonial, social and
recreational events ranging from concerts and
theatricals to high school graduation ceremonies.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, it was operated by
the city Parks & Recreation Department, which
held indoor recreational activities and “sock hops,”
referred to as “Rec Dances,” in its gymnasium.
Toward the end of that era, the facility had largely
fallen into disuse, the auditorium proper having
been turned into a professional wrestling arena.
It was ultimately condemned for safety reasons.
By the 1970s some initiatives were already
beginning to be proposed to the city for its
rehabilitation and reopening, but because of
budgetary pressures, worsened by local economic
conditions, none of these gained approval.
By 1991, after over 20 years of disuse, the city
decided it needed to be relieved of the burden of
maintaining a derelict property and demolition
was scheduled. This, despite the building’s
status as a historical landmark, listed on the
National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The same year, a group of concerned citizens
formed the non-profit corporation which raised
the funds to purchase the property from the
city, and undertook the project privately.
Today, the Civic Auditorium Historic
Preservation Committee, a 501(c)3 non-
profit charity, is responsible for raising funds
and overseeing the Civic’s well-being.
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516 West 9 th Street • The Dalles • 541-296-6123