Future Location of Alta Theatre in Pendleton

East Oregonian, March 11, 1913, p. 6

Using the Sanborn map from 1910, I used several different sheets to track out the future location for one of Pendleton’s theaters, the Alta Theatre.

Using Cinema Treasures, I was able to find the location where the Alta used to be (25 SE Dorion Ave) as well as its first day of operations: September 6, 1913. Using Google Maps to help better contextualize the 1910 Sanborn Map, I had to scour through several of the sheets for the downtown area before I saw the building that would become the Alta Theatre.

The Cinema Treasures entry for the theater included a newspaper clipping that reported it was “OPPOSITE CITY HALL,” so I knew the approximate zone. It would have been easy to find the location if Pendleton hadn’t changed Alta Street to Dorion Avenue. I finally found the location on the corner of Main and Alta by comparing how the present location is on Google Maps. The Alta Theatre likely replaced the business within the lower right quadrant of building 4 which functioned both as a Chop Mill and housed Baled Hay & Feed.

Three years from this Sanborn zoning yet six months from the opening of the Alta Theatre, on March 1, 1913, there were a total of five competing theaters in Pendleton, at that point a town of around 5,000. The theaters included the Oregon Theater, the Grand, the Cosy, the Pastime, and the Orpheum. It is pretty amazing that despite its smallish size, there was a major boom in Pendleton for theaters. The oldest theatre, the Cosy, had opened in 1906 alongside the Pastime theatre.

Most theatres were in the heart of downtown off of Main Street; in the early 20s the Centre Theatre would be built at 355 S. Main St, then in the mid-30s the United Artists Theatre would open at 108 S. Main St. Through the placement of all the theaters downtown, it likely created much competition that drove theaters (like the Cosy in 1919) out of business.