Fire strikes the Grand Theatre in Centralia on April 15, 1924.

  • By Eric L. Flom
  • Posted 12/10/2007
  • Essay 8399
See Additional Media

On the morning of April 15, 1924, a fire of undetermined origin starts in the basement of the Grand Theatre in Centralia.  The blaze causes an estimated $10,000 in damage before it's extinguished, but is confined to non-public areas of the building.  The Grand is able to reopen within a matter of days.

Wake-Up Call

Early on the morning of April 15, Frank A. Graham -- owner of the Grand Theatre and living in a suite of apartments within the building -- was awakened by smoke and fire.  Acting quickly, Graham hustled his wife and young daughter (still in their nightclothes) out into the street, then called for assistance. 

The Centralia fire department responded within minutes and, after a short battle, brought the flames under control.

A Silver Lining?

Although damage to the Grand was extensive (estimated at $10,000, this was quite a hit to a small rural theatre), most of it was confined to the basement and stairway at the rear of the building, leaving the lobby and auditorium relatively unscathed.  Graham immediately contracted for repairs, and the Grand was actually able to reopen just four days later, on Friday evening (Tribune). 

This was good for Graham’s business, but less so for his home life.  Damage to Graham’s apartment was such that the family was not able to return immediately, even after the Grand Theatre itself had reopened. 

Business as Usual

The fire put a bit of a damper on Frank A. Graham’s recent business coup.  Together with rival exhibitors A. F. Cormier and E. T. Robinson, Graham had just entered into a partnership that gave the men complete control over all six movie houses in Centralia and neighboring Chehalis.  (Their partnership would eventually become known as the Twin City Theatres Corporation.) 

Their initial holdings included the Grand, Liberty, and Rialto theaters in Centralia, along with the new St. Helens Theatre in Chehalis, which was scheduled to open three weeks after the Grand fire. 

Sources: “Centralia Theatre is Damaged by Fire,” Lewis County Advocate, April 18, 1924, p. 4; “Grand Reopens Following Fire,” The Centralia Tribune, April 20, 1924, p. 4; “Three Washington Exhibitors Control Centralia and Chehalis,” Moving Picture World, May 3, 1924, p. 55; “Seattle,” Motion Picture News, May 10, 1924, p. 2241.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You