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A place in history 

& & by Julia Silverman & &

The Fix the Fox campaign is being waged publicly with a certain amount of fanfare. Meanwhile, another Fox-related campaign is being conducted on the relative lowdown.

That's the effort to get the building placed onto the National Register of Historic Places, a prestigious designation for any historic building.

The Spokane Landmarks Board, made up of city and county members, is involved in the effort, as are the Spokane Preservation Advocates, one of the first groups to urge the Symphony to help save the Fox from destruction.

Larry Kreisman, the program director of Historic Seattle and a noted art-deco expert, is writing the bulk of the nomination, which he will present to the city Landmarks Board on March 21.

After that, the nomination must wend its way through several more hurdles, including a state advisory council and then to the National Park Service, which has final say over which locations are inducted into the register.

Assuming no unexpected hitches, the process could be complete in about six to eight months, says Teresa Brum, the city/county historic preservation director. Kreisman's efforts are being underwritten by the city of Spokane, Brum says, which is the first time the city has sponsored a nomination to any of the registers.

For Kreisman, the Fox is a clear pick for the National Register.

"The Fox has a distinguished pedigree," Kreisman says. "It would have been important in any major city in America -- it's not just a local landmark. It's got national connections."

In his nomination, which touches both on the architectural significance of the building and on the theater's symbolic importance to the community, Kreisman singles out both the building's architecture and interior design.

"I have tried to describe the interiors -- they are not pure French art deco, since there are elements of more historically oriented decoration," Kreisman says. "The murals are almost like fairy tales in the mezzanine. They are really more from the illustrative arts and children's books, to capture the fantasy and imagination of people coming in, to transition from the outer world to the auditorium, to imagination and music and film."

He also says the Fox is noteworthy because, unlike so many other historic theaters, it has been continually used as a theater, thus remaining basically intact since its opening.

In a relatively lively theater town, Kreisman says the Fox is notable for sprawling out over almost an entire city block. And the likes of the inside had never before been seen in Spokane -- existing theaters were more classical and traditional in style, all plush velvet and red carpeting. The Fox was so unlike the rest that newspapers at the time hailed the building as "bizarre and futuristic" and warned theatergoers that they "might be shocked by [the decor] they would see. It reflects the movement of the film industry to a more modern style," Kreisman says.

Designation as a national historic site is a largely honorary recognition, although places on the local register are eligible to apply for a reduction in property taxes, Brum says.

& & & lt;i & Larry Kreisman will give a lecture and slide show on the history of the Fox Theater and art deco at 7 pm on March 21 at the Fox, located at Monroe Street and Sprague Avenue in downtown Spokane. Admission is $10 at the door, proceeds to benefit the theater restoration and the Spokane Symphony. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
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