Sometime in 1915, Dr. Hiram M. Johnson opens the Lois Theatre in Toppenish, in Yakima County. Located at 211 S. Toppenish Avenue, the venue seated 800 and was originally designed as a legitimate theater, with a large stage, four box seats, and two balcony sections. Shortly before the opening, however, the second balcony was eliminated in favor of a projection booth for motion picture screenings.
At the time of its opening in 1915, the Lois faced some stiff competition. Known as the “entertainment center” of Yakima County, the city of Toppenish boasted (in addition to Dr. Johnson’s new house) three additional movie theaters, 32 bars, and some 13 brothels, all of which catered (obviously) to a community with varied interests.
On January 1, 1927, Dr. Johnson rededicated the house as the Liberty Theatre. Johnson would own the venue until his death in 1930; so connected was he to his theater that his funeral services were held there, the good doctor’s body lying in state on the Liberty’s stage.
As the Liberty, the venue continued to screen motion pictures regularly until 1984, when the house was closed and was in danger of being torn down. This never came to pass, however, and the Liberty is slowly being restored to its original state. Part of this effort, in fact, included the removal of the original projection booth, thus restoring the second balcony that was eliminated shortly before its opening.