fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Page Theatre had decadelong run before fire destroyed it

I like reading about the Vaudeville plays that were put on at the Page Theater in the stories from 100 years ago. Last I checked, we don't have any theater with that name in the present day. Where was the Page and what happened to it?

— Mary, via phone

According to the dusty archives of the Muddy Tributary, the Page provided Medford a venue for everything from early temperance movement proponents to a performance by the "Lady Kilty Band" in January 1914 by Dr. Frederick C. Page of Medford.

Documents sourced by helpful volunteers at the Southern Oregon Historical Society show that the theater, located at 410 E. Main St., near Riverside, boasted amenities such as plush carpeting and a "cry room" for mothers to care for their infants.

A ground-breaking ceremony was held Nov. 2, 1912, and the theater had its grand opening May 19, 1913, with a production of "Peter Pan," starring vaudeville actress Maude Adams and a full New York cast.

The glory days for the Page ended abruptly just over a decade later, when on Sunday, Dec. 30, 1923, fire gutted the theater and claimed the life of volunteer firefighter Amos Willits and seriously injured Medford Fire Chief Roy Elliott.

"While loss of life in such a tragedy renders other losses scarcely worth consideration, the fact can't be denied that the loss of the Page Theater is a public calamity," the Mail Tribune wrote in an editorial on Monday, Dec. 31, 1923.

Although clippings note the theater was partially covered by insurance, the theater stood vacant for seven years until the City Council moved to condemn the building — it was demolished in 1930. In the Page's place, Gene Childers built the 450-seat Roxy Theater in 1932, which was remodeled and renamed The Esquire Theater in 1947.

According to ads for The Esquire, sourced courtesy of the website maintained by local historian Ben Truwe, The Esquire's final known film showing was in February 1956, a double feature with "The World in Arms" starring Gregory Peck and "Saskatchewan" starring Alan Ladd.

After the venue closed as a movie theater, it was sporadically used for speakers such as Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Sr. in 1956 and evangelist Ray Boatright in 1959.

MT archives show the Medford City Council condemned The Esquire in December 1965, and the building was razed in 1966.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.