In 2006, an impassioned group of preservationists and theatre enthusiasts refused to sit idly by when developers proposed to gut the Whiteside Theatre—one of Oregon’s grand movie palaces—for a mini-mall and restaurant. Armed with the knowledge that the 800-seat Whiteside would contribute more to the cultural vitality and economic diversity of downtown Corvallis as a performance venue, the group championed the 1922 icon at hearings, appeals, and Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals. In negotiations fortified with chocolates, the supporters boldly asked—and received—the Italian Renaissance Revival Theatre as a gift to the people of Corvallis.
Shuttered since January 2002, when a failed sewer line closed the Whiteside, the squad of volunteers campaigned to meet critical—if not glamorous—repair benchmarks. Doing what critics said couldn’t be done, the Whitesiders’ determination paid off on Friday, November 8. Hundreds of witnesses gathered to see the dazzling neon marquee once again sparkle on a long-dark downtown corner. The glittering beacon signals that historic assets significantly contribute to the community’s sense of place and self-image. It also, perhaps, signals that unsung heroes continue to battle resolutely to safeguard the achievements of the past for generations into the future.
The Gazette-Times has photos and more information about the relighting of the Whiteside marquee.
A complete history of the Whiteside can be found in the building’s National Register Nomination.