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On April 19, 1927 the Egyptian Theatre opened to the public with pomp and ceremony. Its films accompanied by a 1927 Robert-Morton, opus 2298.

Today, the theatre is the best remaining example of Egyptian-revival style, popular after the Egyptian tombs were discovered in the 1920s, and the organ that accompanied such silent film stars as Clara Bow, Mary Pickford, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, continues to delight audiences at special screenings of silent films. It has survived urban renewal and a proposed sale to a pizza parlor, it still delights audiences today.

But the treasured organ is in sore need of repair. At an event in February, 2017, world-renown organist Ben Model, accompanied the 1927 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, Wings. He had been in Boise several times before to play the instrument, which he counts as a local treasure. His assessment of the current state of the organ was not good and his prediction for its future was dire.

Nell Shipman Film Festival, Tom Trusky, Jim Ogle, Egyptian Theatre, mh

If the organ doesn’t get much needed attention, he said, it is at risk of being rendered permanently unplayable.

Here’s more from Ben about the status of the Egyptian Theatre Organ:

About

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.

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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.

History

The Egyptian was designed and built by local visionaries, an effort to reverse the roudy reputation of Boise: Idaho Architecture Project page

The push to renovate Boise’s historic Egyptian Theatre is rooted in a downtown revitalization effort and a fight for Boise’s historic downtown: National Trust for Historic Preservation article

Many thanks to Conrad Schmidt Studios for letting us use the photos after their work on restoring the Egyptian Theatre.

Enjoy this excerpt of Buster Keaton’s THE SCARECROW with an original score by Ben Model, recorded live at the Egyptian Theatre in Boise, Idaho, September 2010.

Contact

Let us know if you would like a visit or tour, or if you have any questions about the Campaign to Restore the Egyptian Theatre Organ by filling in the contact form below or calling 208-484-4424.

Donate

The local volunteer organization Friends of the Egyptian is organizing a campaign to raise funds to restore the 90 year old Egyptian Theatre Organ, an estimated $300,000 project, and put a maintenance endowment of $100,000 in place.

You can make your tax-deductible via an Idaho Community Foundation special projects fund, or contact us for more information.