After enjoying our delicious meal at the Thai House in beautiful and historic downtown Hillsboro, the wife and I were not quite ready to head home.
“Let’s keep this night going,” She said as we arose from our seats, paid our tab and headed out into the cold. Her right arm lingered on my shoulder before wrapping around my arm.
The Venetian Theatre was directly across the street. This seemed like as good of a place as any to continue our evening.
Owned by the McMenamins family, a family famous for repurposing buildings into restaurants, hotels, theatres, and more, the Venetian Theatre was originally two separate buildings. The theater portion (not including the auditorium) was originally built in 1888 to house the First National Bank of Hillsboro. In 1911, when the bank moved, J.W. Shute, the bank president, “Encouraged Orange Phelps, who was operating the 108 seat Arcade Theater directly across the street from the vacant bank building, to purchase the property. Phelps purchased the old bank building and opened the 200 seat Grand Theater there the same year. In 1916, 300 more seats were added and the Grand became the Liberty.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
We weren’t sure what kind of theatre this was. The exterior resembled an old timey movie theatre, complete with a marquee and single occupancy ticket booth. We didn’t recognize the show on the marquee, but that’s hardly news; my wife and I grow sadly more out of touch with what’s hip with each passing day.
“I bet it’s an independent movie theatre,” I said.
“Wanna bet? It’s clearly a stage theatre.”
I won’t tell you what we bet on, but I will tell you that, as usual, the missus won.
But, more than a theatre, the Venetian is a restaurant (the food looked and smelled delicious, even while our stomachs were busy digesting our Thai food), cultural artifact, concert venue and, yes, a haunted building. Numerous paranormal activities have been recorded here. Investigators have recorded the mysterious voices of apparent Hillsboro undead spirits. Could it be the voice of Orange Phelps, refusing to leave what he created?
The Venetian has high ceilings, a large dining area to the right and the auditorium to the rear. Outside the auditorium, relics of a bye gone area: A movie camera from the 1920’s, photographs, posters and articles from the glory years of Broadway and Hollywood. The Venetian is a full service activity destination in and of itself and is a treasure right here in Hillsboro.
The Venetian Theatre is located at 253 E. Main Street in Downtown, Hillsboro. Come out for a visit. Eat, watch a play and, perhaps, interact with some (perhaps) benevolent spirits.