Considered by many to be the crown jewel of Coos Bay’s architectural legacy, the Egyptian Theatre dates back to 1925, at the height of the global Egyptian Revival architecture craze inspired by the discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb three years earlier.
Grauman’s Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles is probably the best known of these buildings, but the Egyptian Theatre of Coos Bay seats 700 people in a city whose population was under 5,000 at the time it was built, and didn’t top 10,000 for decades since.
Considering the rural character of Oregon’s coastline, this state of the art theater must have been the greatest architectural attraction within hundreds of miles for generations of coastal, and even inland, Oregonians.
The interior is lavishly gilded and decorated with hieroglyphics and stylized Egyptian art motifs that have not changed since 1925, lending the venue a spellbindingly retroactive feel. The original Wurlitzer organ (from the time of silent movies) still sits in the theatre and remains functional.
The theatre functioned continuously as a movie house until 2005, when increasing competition from nearby multiplexes finally led to its shuttering. Local preservationists worked to save the theatre from demolition or massive remodeling, and had the structure added to the National Register of Historical Places in 2010. In 2014, the Egyptian Theatre of Coos Bay reopened as a venue for special screenings and events.
On September 2, 2014 fate ordained that I would handle a downtown delivery route. A downtown route is a high-stakes undertaking. The work is much more challenging than a residential route, but you’re rewarded with spectacular sights and a chance to ride the lightning by being a cog in the timeless, well-oiled machinery of one of America’s oldest running business districts for a day
The route began in the wonderfully preserved area east of Telegraph Hill abutting the wharfs. This is the true heart of San Francisco, the nearest natural harbor in San Francisco after entering the the Golden Gate. Ships arrived here by the thousands during the Gold Rush and were simply abandoned by the crews, as often as not being turned into the landfill that historic waterfront San Francisco is built on.
My delivery was on the 100 block of Green St. at the corner of Icehouse Alley, just one block away from the Green St. laboratory where Philo Farnsworth perfected the electronic television.
My next stop was in one of the Embarcadero Center towers. This delivery entails being directed by teamsters into the underground parking garage of a 30-something story skyscraper that looks like the spot where Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. There are no pleases and thank yous here, just a lot of move-its and c’mon- alreadys. With the specter of domestic terrorism and a bunch of people driving box trucks underneath skyscrapers, everyone’s on his best behavior here. This was no place to stop and take a photo.
For the last part of the day, I had nine stops along the first six blocks of California Street. On a street like California, with cable cars, taxis, lunch crowds, and tourists, it made more sense to just park the truck in one place and use the hand cart to make the deliveries.
I parked across the street from the Tadich Grill, San Francisco’s oldest continually running eatery. Tradition runs strong here. The waiters wear white jackets and black pants, and there have only been seven chefs since 1925.
My fourth stop on California St. was a building that had a really nice collage in the lobby of the iconic downtown street grid done in art deco tiles. Before I could even press the shutter on my Iphone camera the security guard came rushing out from behind his desk shouting “No pictures! No pictures!” I compromised and took just one.
A block or two up was the iconic four way crossing at the intersection of California and Montgomery, where you can cut across the intersection diagonally right in front of a cop car, as people are doing here.
Below is a close-up of a the building seen in the 4-way crossing shot.
The insides of the buildings are as historically eye-catching as the outsides, but after the first security guard yelled at me, I didn’t want to press my luck as a photographer. This shot of an ashtray in an elevator lobby was the best I could do.
After I made my final delivery on the 500 block of California Street, it was time to hop back in the truck and call it a day, leaving California Street to the cable cars, businesspeople and the lunch crowd.
The trip back to the warehouse took me onto the other side of the tracks, along Mission St.
I made a burrito stop along Mission between 18th and 19th at the flagship location of the celebrated Taqueria Cancun. The equally legendary, and even more notorious, Hunt’s Donuts, where cops and criminals lined up at the same counter to get 1 AM donuts still warm from the frier, used to be on the same block. The section of wall mural below is all that remains.