The Egyptian Theatre opened in 1927 and is said to be the best remaining example of Egyptian-revival style, popular after the Egyptian tombs were discovered in the 1920s.
The theater was designed by Frederick C. “Fritz” Hummel of Tourtellotte and Hummel who did extensive research for the design, drawing on his visits to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum as a University of Pennsylvania student, studying the Egyptian Book of the Dead at the Boise Public Library, and also visiting the popular Egyptian revival theaters in the Los Angeles area while courting his future wife Mary McAndrews.
Fritz personally drew many of the interior designs that the theater ‘decorators’ from Salt Lake painted during construction. The theater originally sat 1200.
The name of the theater was changed several times, from The Egyptian to The Fox in 1931, to the Ada in the early 1940s (exact date unknown), and back to the Egyptian in 1977. It was placed in the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974 under the name The Ada.
Local visionaries have kept the theater and organ a part of Boise’s heritage
In the 70s developers were planning an eight-block shopping mall that would necessitate the demolition of the Egyptian. A group of concerned citizens, including historian Arthur Hart, Mia Fereday, and architects Ron Thurber and Charles Hummel (grandson of Fritz), formed the nonprofit Egyptian Theater Organ Foundation and purchased the organ for $5,000. They were preparing to move it out of the building if the demolition was going to occur.
As a last hurrah for the organ in its original home, the group screened a series of films. For the 1927 Academy Award winning “Wings,” they arranged to attach the tail section of a vintage Sopwith Camel to the marquee, to look as though the plane had crashed into the theater. The publicity from the stunt helped sellout the event and subsequent shows, launching a movement to save the Egyptian.
Foundation members then convinced Earl Hardy, himself a preservationist, to buy the theater with the aid of federal matching grants. Charles Hummel oversaw the first restoration in 1978. Fritz Hummel lived long enough to attend the re-opening of the theater in April 1977, a year before he died at age 92.
Hardy’s daughter, Anita Kay Hardy and her husband, architect Gregory Kaslo, oversaw a second, more extensive restoration in 1999.
The organ is a 1927 2m/8r Robert-Morton, opus 2298. It is installed in two chambers.
The organ remains a part of Boise’s heritage, in the Egyptian Theatre, due to the concerted effort of local visionaries.