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!
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