Paramount's library: A treasure trove of memories

Apr 2, 2012

1928 Model T Fords, top hats, and thousands of people spilling out onto 9th and Pike. It's the opening of Seattle's Paramount Theatre (originally called the Seattle Theatre). Now that rich history is archived in the new, fourth-floor Paramount library. 

Judith Rosenthal is the the granddaughter of L.N. Rosenbaum, the man who built the iconic theater. She was in Seattle recently to dedicate its new library.

L.N.'s family arrived in this country in 1887 and settled in New York's Lower East Side when he was about six years old. He grew up to become a lawyer. After starting a career in New York, he made his way to Seattle where he married and began raising a family. (Judith's mother was L.N.'s youngest child.) 

L.N. Rosenbaum was larger than life

"He was a financial advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was considered for an ambassadorship to Russia, and he know Albert Einstein," recalls Judith. 

Rosenbaum's vision would set the stage for decades to come

From performances by cowboy humorist Will Rogers in the 1930's to the present with British pop singer Adele's recent concert, Paramount's entertainment history is long and storied.  Silent films, movies, singers, bands, and comedians - more than 12,000 in total have performed there. They are all chronicled in its new library. Posters, programs, memorabilia abound, including material from the Paramount's sister theaters The Moore and The Neptune which are all part of the Seattle Theatre Group (STG).

L.N. Rosenbaum was also remembered for his aroma

"He ate a clove of garlic every day because the doctor said it would be good for his blood pressure," said Judith. "He smoked Havana cigars. So between the smell of the garlic and the smoke there was just sort of a cloud around him."

Judith said that L.N.'s kids got free passes to take their friends to the movies at the Paramount. Some of his children even helped paint the interior and would come home with gold leaf splattered on their clothes.

Today, the Paramount Theater continues to host a variety of shows. Coming up are the musicals The Book of Mormon and War Horse. And you can guarantee the programs and any memorabilia from those shows will  go into the theater's library, along with memories from shows well into the future.

Artscape” is a weekly KPLU feature covering Northwest art, performances and artists. The feature is published here on Sundays and airs on KPLU 88.5 on Monday during Morning Edition, All Things Considered and on Weekend Saturday Edition.