The Washoe Theater in Anaconda, Montana was the last theater constructed in the United States in the Nuevo Deco (a form of Art Deco) style. The theater was designed in 1930 by Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca. It was almost entirely finished by 1931, but its opening was delayed until Thursday, September 24, 1936 because of the Great Depression. In 1936 dollars, its construction cost was a grand $200,000. The Smithsonian rates the Washoe as a national treasure due to the lavish interior. In 1982, the Washoe was listed on the United States National Register of Historic Places for architectural significance.
The interior design and furnishings were done by Hollywood theater designer Nat Smythe. The exterior doors are etched glass. Each joint and trim work is carved in complicated relief patterns with much use of ornamental ironwork. Use of copper is especially prevalent, as Anaconda was a company town for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Silver and gold leaf supplement the accent work. Carved rams heads line the walls. Every flat surface, including the domed ceiling, is a painted mural done by Colville Smythe.
The silk curtain is a piece of art in itself, though seldom seen. Its age presents a problem for curators who are afraid that taking it down, even to try and restore it, would cause it to fall apart. It has a painting of deer stags.
The theater was also designed to have near perfect acoustics. The delay in opening allowed the sound system to be re-designed as a showcase for Western Electric’s newest innovation “Mirrorphonic Sound”. Recorded sound with films was itself a relatively new innovation, the creation a high-fidelity audio system was quite remarkable for 1936.