Monday marks the 85th anniversary of the Liberty Theater. A ribbon cutting and ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Monday to dedicate the restored ticket kiosk.

The wooden structure that was formerly used as a ticket kiosk has been restored thanks to Hal and Jeanyse Snow and The Snow Family Foundation.

Hal Snow said, "When people bought tickets to go into the Liberty, they were helping the Nordquist sisters attend high school. When my mother and her twin sister graduated from the eighth grade, their stepfather said, 'Now that you two have finished grammar school, you should get full-time work.' He believed it was foolish and unnecessary, especially for girls, to attend high school. Their jobs selling tickets and ushering at the Liberty Theater afforded them the opportunity to complete their formal education."

The kiosk will be dedicated to Helen A. Nordquist Snow and her twin sister Hazel Nordquist Riswick.

Rickenbach Construction performed the restoration work.


Setting the stageThe story begins with a simple question asked of Skip Hauke, executive director of the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, who used to run a grocery store in east Astoria. "Sometime in the late 1990s, I was back in the deli section of my store and was approached by my seafood department employee, Nora (Beelar) Morkert. 

"She asked if I knew anyone who was associated with the folks restoring the Liberty Theater. As it happened, I was on the Liberty Restoration Board at the time. She proceeded to ask if I remembered the copper dome that used to be on top of the ticket booth. When I answered yes, she revealed that it was in the hayloft of her family's barn out on Peter Johnson Road in Youngs River."


The rescueEvidently 50 or 60 years ago, Nora Morkert's father, Glenn Beelar, happened to be at the right place at the right time on the day the then owners of the Liberty Theater were disposing of the copper roof. The Beelar farm was formerly a dairy and the barn was filled with Glenn Beelar's collections. For reasons only he knew, he took the dome home and stored it in the top corner of the hayloft. It remained there for half a century.


The returnBy the time our story picks up, the dome was in pretty tough shape with 22-caliber gunshot holes throughout and a large accumulation of owl droppings on the outside. The family thought the dome should be returned to the Liberty. When Morkert  approached Hauke, he agreed. The Liberty Theater was in the middle of Phase I of its restoration project and not yet ready to receive or restore the ticket kiosk. After its repossession, the dome visited several different storage sites (including the Columbia River Maritime Museum's Armory) for another decade before moving to the basement of the Liberty Theater in 2006.


The restorationIn 2007, Rosemary Baker-Monaghan, executive director of the Liberty Theater, called Hauke, reminding him that the dome was in the theater's basement and that it was time to pursue its restoration.

"I asked Skip if he knew of anyone who could restore the copper dome," she said. Shortly after that conversation, Hauke reported back, "I approached my good friend, Paul Radu, co-owner of P&L Johnson Mechanical, and asked if he would have any interest in having his sheet metal shop restore the dome as a donation to the Liberty Theater.

"With Paul and his partner Dale Johnson's histories of community service, it was no surprise they jumped at the opportunity."

Employees Keith Landwehr, Bruce Spencer and Cory Hughes completed the restoration over the course of the next few years, working in between regular contracts. 

The action delighted Baker-Monaghan. "Now, after 60 years of history and with the help of many community members, restoration is complete and the Kiosk's Copper Dome is officially and finally home," she said.


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