“A shining example of Oregon history”
The Gem Theatre is housed in the historic 1901 Jacob Betz Building located at 239 West Main Street, Athena Oregon. The structure was built by the Jacob Betz Brewing and Malting Company of Walla Walla, Washington as a saloon and restaurant. In 1904, the Stahl Brewery of Walla Walla purchased the lots adjoining to the east of the Betz Building and constructed a saloon building identical to Betz and exactly twice as large. The Betz and Stahl families were long standing rivals in the brewery business. Today these two structures remain as the sole architectural examples of these two pioneer brewing dynasties. Athena passed a local option law in 1908 closing all saloons and the west compartment of the Betz Building was converted to a movie house in 1909. The Moores operated their chain of theatres using a process old timers called "bicycling" a film. After showing a film in one theatre they would load it into the trunk of their automobile and hand deliver it to another of their theatres until it had moved through the entire chain. Chet Dugger enlisted in the armed services during WWII as a radio operator and upon his return in 1946 the Moore's sold the Gem to him. Dugger continued to operate the old theatre until 1968 when it closed due to the popularity of television. Chet Dugger passed away in 1978 and the building went through an number of owners. In 2004 it was donated to the City of Athena to be renovated as a theatre. In 2005, Athena's Gem, Inc. was formed as a non profit corporation and the property was transferred to them for renovation. Reports say that although the theater on the first floor is abandoned, the second floor is a private home. There have been reports of a white figure wandering in the theater, along with footsteps and doorknobs that turn by themselves.
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