Deco Renovation: Odem Theater

Milton and Flossie Odem, newly weds, moved to Redmond, OR from Idaho. Shortly after that, in 1923, they purchased their first theater. Located on the first floor of the Atkinson building, they renamed the venue: Odem’s Mayfair. This Mayfair operated until the 50’s. And while the Atkinson Building remains, the first floor was remodeled and the exterior shows almost no signs that there was ever a theater there.

Many years later in 1952, the Odem’s opened a drive-in theater. They dubbed it the Odem-Medo, laughing to themselves. Just as the Mayfair, this theater too was obliterated from existence. It operated at least until the 70’s, and in 1983 a new theater, The Redmond Cinema, was built on the spot.

The Odem Mayfair came too early and the Odem-Medo came too late be styled Art Deco. The Odem’s however opened a theater in between. The Odem was opened in 1937, at the height of Art Deco in Oregon.

While it is now considered Streamline Moderne in pedigree, The Odem is quite modest in its design. Based on my research there is some ambiguity of this building’s construction. According to Oregon’s Historical Resource Survey, the theater was constructed in 1928, a decade prior to Odem’s acquisition. It’s original use and the architect are unknown to me. It is uncertain if the original design would have been considered Art Deco, as all documents indicate that the Odem’s renovated the building when they purchased it in 1936. The above images show the building after the redesign, in which we can see on the parapet 3 horizontal bands in the stucco, these bands are repeated across the curved awning, and repeated in the neon wrapping around the “ODEM” name. These lines simultaneous evoke horizontal, vertical, and curved lines. Aside from the sans-serif of “ODEM,” this is the extent of the Streamline styling.

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Architects sketch of The Odem’s sign and marquee. You can see that the letters were painted, but they were wrapped in neon tubing.

This brings us to the point of the architect. No architect is associated with the original construction, and there are two different architects associated with the remodel. According to the Oregon Survey the architect was Fred Van Metre; according to the Washington Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation the architect was Walter Day Hilborn. The image of the Odem sign on the right was listed as one of Hilborn’s. It is possible both men worked on the remodel, or that Van Metre was the original constructor and Hilborn added the Deco flares. It does not matter much, but Hilborn seems to have been a prolific architect in the Pacific Northwest who designed many fine examples of Art Deco that exist to this day. I recommend checking out this power point to see some more.

This brings us to today. The Odem theater closed down at some unknown date. The sign and marquee were removed, and it is fairly certain that they were destroyed. The awning was either replaced or encased in a square awning. All that remained of its glory days were the 3 horizontal bands and the anchor that held the sign. The building remained and was occupied throughout the years by various businesses. It seems to have been boarded up for some time, but recently a father-son team, Ted and Evan Eady, bought the building and announced they intended to renovate and open it as The Odem Theater Pub. 

This news is made even more exciting by their open commitment to remaking the theater in a Streamline Style. Old neon letters spelling “ODEM” of unknown origin were found in the building. Evan Eady intends to incorporate these into a Streamline styled sign. The old awning seems to have been located, and even an old stage will be repurposed as a bar. The theater will have a pub-cafe as well as two theaters. The current schedule is that the theater will be opened this spring. I certainly wish them the best, and hope to find time to give them a visit some time this summer. Check out their Facebook and Instagram for more updates.

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