Lorraine Wilde | 09/09/2019 | Insider Blogs, Live Performances |   

Mount Baker Theatre in Bellingham: Historic Architecture Hosts Current Headliners

Mount Baker Theatre (MBT) has been bringing entertainment from around the world to Bellingham (and the entire Bellingham region) since 1927. So it’s fitting their theme for the 2019-2020 is "Elevate Your Everyday” on Mount Baker Theatre’s “Towering Peak of Entertainment.” That is an understatement when you consider the historic building and world-class, culturally-diverse live theater, dance, celebrity, and music performances that come to beautiful Bellingham from across the globe.  I took a tour of this architectural gem with Executive Director Brad Burdick to learn more about the powerhouse of Bellingham’s downtown arts district and its impressive list of upcoming shows.

More than 90 years ago, MBT was a luxurious movie palace built with an exotic Spanish Moorish design meant to transport its small town patrons to another time and place. Sadly, it is the only survivor of five built in the Bellingham-area at the time. In 1978 the building was placed on the National Historical Record and in 1984 the community rallied and saved it from demolition by developing a partnership between the City, County, and the community. Since then MBT has operated as a city-owned facility managed by the Mount Baker Theatre Corporation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. 

Over $14 million in capital improvements have transformed this living machine. The theater’s interior is breath-taking and its exterior iconic. My tour took us to the heights of the balcony, the depths of the orchestra pit, and behind the curtain that hides the modern and historic secrets of how the magic is made. But my description can’t do it justice. Take a look at the 2019-2020 season and book your tickets today.

But tours aren’t for the easily scared because rumor has it that the theater is haunted by a friendly ghost named Judy, along with other spirits. Although some sightings have been correlated with consumption of adult beverages, others have gone unexplained. A safe in a former office turned storage room was mysteriously closed and no one knew the combination. After many, many years the room was being cleaned for renovation and the safe was suddenly discovered open!

Burdick also mentioned another tour he gave to a couple of individuals sensitive to paranormal activity. They both reported seeing a large black spirit of a big cat at the bottom of the stairs back stage, near the door that leads to the fan room for the Wurlitzer pipe organ (one of the top organs in the U.S. according to organist Dennis James). Later research discovered that in the late 1930s, a traveling circus had performed at the theater and a black panther had died in the room. They asserted that animals don’t appear as ghosts, but as energy residues that jump out when encountered.

        We acknowledge that Whatcom County is located on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. They cared for the lands that included what we’d call the Puget Sound region, Vancouver Island and British Columbia since time immemorial. This gives us the great obligation and opportunity to learn how to care for our surrounding areas and all the natural and human resources we require to live. We express our deepest respect and gratitude for our indigenous neighbors, the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe, for their enduring care and protection of our shared lands and waterways.
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