Saturday, December 9, 2023

A Boost for Foster Road


Encouraging work is progressing on S.E. Foster Road to restore a 108-year old theater building into active use as a performing arts venue.

The Classical Ballet Academy located next door to the historic Ames Theater at 5516 S.E. Foster Road plans to reopen the re-named Foster Theater for the Performing Arts next year.  The renovation work has already cleaned up the exterior of the 1915 building and installed a new blade sign and marquee.

 Sarah Rigler, director the ballet academy, envisions the old theater as being used for community events and performing arts.  The theater was most recently known as the Day Music Co., which bought the theater in 1966 and used it mostly for displaying pianos for sale. 

 The renovation is a boost for the Foster Road neighborhood.  The vacant theater frontage after Day Music’s departure had become a target for graffiti painters and a site for homeless campers. 

The theater had an original seating capacity of 260.  It was built in 1915 by Charles A. Ames, who managed it for many years into the 1950s.  In 1929 he had new equipment installed for talking pictures, and the theater maintained its status as a first-run movie house into the early 1950s. 

(Oregonian advertisement, 1966)

 Day Music Co. had been founded in downtown Portland in 1929.  It moved to Foster Road in 1959 before it added the Ames building next door. 

Rigler intends for the ballet academy to continue teaching classical ballet as well as new dance forms including jazz and hip hop.  Fitness classes also are on the agenda.  She founded the academy in 2004.

 The marquee suggests that the theater space will become available in the fall of 2024.  In the meantime, we must hope that the newly-painted bright white walls will not become a new canvas for illegal artistic endeavors. 

---Fred Leeson

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