October 31, 2013
At the height of empire, you'll always find excess (think Caligula). In 1920, the Pacific Lumber Co.'s industrial empire was at the pinnacle of its wealth and power — and Scotia was its capital city. Between 1920 and 1923, the company town's corporate benefactor erected the Scotia Inn, the Scotia Hospital, the First National Bank of Scotia and the majestic Winema Theatre, a stately hall that incorporates Greek revival and Swiss chalet-style architecture. And it's built entirely out of old-growth redwood.
The acropolis-style columns out front are simply redwood trunks, their fuzzy bark naturally imitating ridged column shafts. Decorative cutouts adorn the eaves on the gable roof. And, like many classic movie houses of the era, a little windowed ticket office sits cheerfully under the awning.
Step inside, past the mounted historical knickknacks and the classic posters for High Noon and Creature from the Black Lagoon, and you'll enter the cavernous auditorium, where oversized redwood cornices and massive ceiling beams hover above you on the vaulted ceiling. Beyond the sloped pathways cutting between theater seats lies the stage with its rippling red velvet curtain.
Coming from our cheap, disposable culture, it's nothing short of breathtaking to find yourself surrounded by such rich redwood and beautiful craftsmanship. Feels like standing in the belly of an inverted Viking ship. Built as a movie house and live theater venue, the space continues to serve as a community gathering spot, hosting everything from concerts (Dick Dale's coming Nov. 25) to arts-and-craft sales, meetings and buffet dinners. A local group of ladies does morning workouts on the theater floor, projecting exercise DVDs onscreen.
Granted, the lumber barons should have shown a bit more reverence for those ancient trees, but hey, at least we have some architectural gems to show for that generation's efforts. And the Winema Theatre, which narrowly escaped fiery destruction in 1992, may be the crown jewel.