Find of the Month

December 2016 - Horses at the Opera House

Periodically, controversies arise as to the proper use of city facilities. One of the more unusual debates arose in 1962, when 30 citizens signed a petition to protest the stabling of horses in the Seattle Center opera house. In addition to the petition, two women sent in a postcard which read in part, "We voted and got a beautiful opera house - not a barn which smells of horses and manure."

Don Johnston reported back from the Seattle Center's Department of Buildings:

When this area, 'the basement of the old Auditorium,' was designed and constructed back in 1928, one of its purposes was to accommodate the stabling of horses for horse shows in the adjacent Arena and the old Civic field. Floor drains, adequate ventilation, and secluded access to the area were all provided to accommodate such usage.  Accordingly, there have been several occasions in the past years when the area has been used very effectively for the stabling of animals. Odors are kept to a minimum by a deodorant that is introduced into the ventilating system for the area. Unless people are informed of animals being stabled in the Display Hall, they are unaware of such activity in the adjacent areas. My recommendation is that the area still be permitted to accommodate the stabling of horses and other animals with the understanding that adequate deodorant and ventilating precautions are to be taken. Such usage does not violate any law, create any hazard to the safety of people or property, nor does it infringe upon the peaceful uses of adjacent areas by other events.

Superintendent of Buildings Fred McCoy forwarded Johnston's report to the Council. He agreed that the basement had originally been designed to hold animals, but didn't necessarily think it was a good idea. "However, the Seattle Center is now leased to the World's Fair and the use of the areas and scheduling of events is completely under their control. Had we had control, we would not have permitted the stabling of animals in the Display Hall simultaneous with events being held in the Opera House."