David Belasco, a vaudeville actor and circuit booker, commissioned the first Heilig Theatre in Portland, Or. Built by John E. Blazer and Richard Martin, Jr., in the area of Fourteenth Avenue and Washington and Burnside streets in Portland, the 1,800-seat Columbia was completed July 18, 1904. In the spring of 1906, after the closing of the Marquam Grand Theatre in Portland, Calvin Heilig leased the Columbia, booking both Broadway and local shows. Not long after, the Columbia was renamed the Heilig Theatre.
When Mayor Lane had the building condemned in 1909, Calvin Heilig began construction at a new site on the corner of Taylor and Broadway in downtown Portland. The new Heilig Theatre opened October 10, 1910, featuring live theatre and vaudeville. Designed in Romanesque style by E.W. Houghton, the new Heilig accommodated nearly 1,500 patrons. In 1929, the Heilig's management made the switch from live theatre to cinema and changed its name to the Hippodrome. In the 1930s, the movie house underwent several name changes, becoming the Rialto, the Music Box, and finally the Mayfair.
The Mayfair showcased both movies and live theatre until its purchase in 1953 by Evergreen Theatres. This company did extensive renovations, reopening the theatre as the Fox in August 1954. Another movie house, coincidentally called the Music Box, was added to the existing Fox building in January 1960. The last movie was shown at the Fox in 1990, although it continued to book cable sports events, live concerts and film festivals until its final closure in 1997. At that time, the building that had been home to the historic theatres was demolished to make way for the new Fox Tower, which opened in 2000 with a Regal Cinemas multiplex.
Calvin Heilig (1862-1941) was born in Pennsylvania. He worked his way west as a carbuilder and clerk for a railroad company. In 1889, Heilig settled at Tacoma, Washington, where he bought his first theatre in 1893. A year later, he purchased another theatre in Seattle, Washington, and by 1895 he was manager of the Marquam Theatre in Portland, Oregon. By the end of his career, Heilig had owned more than two hundred theatres in seven states.
From the guide to the Heilig Theatre photographs collection, 1888-1929, 1901-1929, (Oregon Historical Society)