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Portland’s Riotous 1927 Oriental Theater

April 6, 2018
Construction of the Florentine Deco Weatherly Building & the Khmer Revival Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Construction of the Florentine Deco Weatherly Building & the Khmer Revival Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Construction of the auditorium of the Khmer Revival Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Architectural plan of the Khmer Revival Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Weatherly Building & the Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Neon Marquee of the Khmer Revival Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Old fashioned ticket booth of the Khmer Revival Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Plaster cast Hindu deities inside the lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Ornamental plasterwork inside the Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Entrance to the Khmer Revival Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

The Asian style smoking room adjacent to the Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Wildly ornamented vaulted ceiling of Khmer Revival lobby inside Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Ornamental plasterwork inside Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Ornamental plasterwork Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

View into Khmer Revival foyer of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Chinese dragon flanked stairs inside Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Asian Dragons flanking staircase inside the Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Mirror inside Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Khmer Revival lobby of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Khmer Revival auditorium of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Khmer Revival auditorium of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Photo: Library of Congress

Photo: Library of Congress

Photo: Library of Congress

Photo: Library of Congress

Khmer Revival interior of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Highly ornamented dome of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

Khmer Revival proscenium of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

1960's era view of Portland's Oriental Theater & Weatherly Building.

Photo: Library of Congress

1960's era view of Portland's Oriental Theater.

Photo: Library of Congress

 

What’s South East Asian on the inside & Italian all over?

 

If you guessed Portland’s spectacular 1927 Oriental Theater, you’re right! Inside the relatively sedate Florentine exterior lay the exuberant ornamental forms of Angkor. Decorator Adrien Alex Voisin, who had traveled extensively in the Far East, summoned an interior replete with rearing plaster elephants, dragon guarded stairs, and glaring Hindu gods dripping from every surface. The massive auditorium held 2,038 seats & its backstage was designed to capably host the most elaborate of floor shows. It’s marquee announced showtimes beneath the form of a neon elephant. Nothing, in the Portland Oriental was done by halves. Next door, the theater’s builder George Warren Weatherly, erected a Florentine deco midrise containing offices & retail stores.

 

Sadly, as the winds of changing tastes swept the nation, the Oriental was blown into decline. Inspired by the magnificence of lost civilizations, Portland’s Oriental Theater would itself be lost (for a still extant parking lot) in 1970. Favorite bits? Those elephants (everywhere!). Also, those auditorium tapestries!

 

More information on the Portland Oriental can be had here & here.

 

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