Historic, century-old Roseway Theater destroyed by fire
After surviving changes in motion picture distribution and the shifting demographics of movie goers — and the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic — the historic independent Roseway Theater, built in 1925, was destroyed by fire early Saturday morning, August 6. Normally, THE BEE would not have covered a fire so far outside Inner Southeast Portland. But there are a few historic businesses elsewhere on the east side of the city which have emotional connections to many in Inner Southeast, and this is surely one of them — not only do many of our residents remember attending a new or older film at this venerable Sandy Boulevard theater, but recently it has been — to the best of our knowledge — one of only two remaining single-screen movie houses showing only first-run films east of the Willamette River. The other, of course, is the Moreland Theater in Westmoreland.
At 5:59 a.m. a PF&R Battalion Chief called a "Second Alarm", bringing in additional firefighters and apparatus. Shortly afterward, firefighters forced entry into the building and began searching for the fire — however the floor began to collapse under them, and flames began burning through the roof. This forced crews to get back outside and to fight the fire from the exterior. At 6:22 commanders called for a "Third Alarm" to bring more firefighters. By this time, firefighters were now fighting this fire with large, high-pressure streams of water sprayed from high above, using nozzles mounted on several raised ladders on Ladder Trucks. Crews also drenched nearby buildings, to keep the fire from spreading to the adjoining businesses
At 7:36 a.m., Portland Bureau of Transportation crews had been called to mitigate the significant water runoff in Sandy Boulevard. By 9:45 a.m. firefighters had knocked down most of the fire, but falling wood and debris were still trapping embers and hot spots inside the building. "That means this fire will be burning for a long time today," PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Damon Simmons told reporters.
As many as 85 firefighters responded during the blaze, Lt. Simmons said, adding, "We did not find anyone inside; and there were no reported injuries." Here's a brief BEE video at the scene: youtu.be/XZqlze5fgXQ
Investigators began searching for the fire's cause and point of origin later the same day, but fire investigators finally announced on August 22nd that the cause of the fire was electrical in nature, adding, "Further analysis may be required to identify the specific failures which led to this tragedy. Arson has been ruled out and this fire was accidental in nature".
PF&R considers the building to be a total loss — unless its owners decide to level and fully rebuild the theater on the site.
It appears that a landmark century-old independent movie theater, to which many in Portland had an emotional attachment, is gone.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.