|Photo by Leah Nash|
Rosemary Baker-Monaghan, Executive director, Liberty Restoration
In the early 1990s, when Astoria’s Liberty Theater had sunk to its lowest level of decrepitude, Rosemary Baker-Monaghan was finding her way from the forest, where she’d spent much of her life working for the timber industry, to the political arena in the city of Seaside, 15 miles south of the historic venue.
While the Yakima, Wash., native didn’t know it at the time, her life in politics — first on Seaside’s planning commission, then its city council and, finally, as mayor from 1999 to 2003 — were all a lead up to overseeing the $9.5 million resurrection of what’s becoming Astoria’s nascent cultural arts center.
Built as a silent-film and vaudeville palace in the 1920s, the theater had declined over the decades into a decaying movie house where — as local stories claim — homeless people lived in the rafters and bathed in the bathroom sinks.
In 2005, after losing both a re-election bid for mayor and a primary race for state representative, the 51-year-old Baker-Monaghan was thinking a lot about the excitement she once found in helping shape the future through public service. That’s when the nonprofit that runs the Liberty (she had had a seat on its board since 2000) offered her the job of executive director.
Educating kids in the arts, economic development, restoration: It’s the fulfilling facets of her job that Baker-Monaghan thinks about when the theater is empty and she sits in her favorite seat three rows from the stage, surrounded by the meticulously restored elegance.
But she’s also listening to the quiet echoes of a thousand voices, songs and things to come.
— Abraham Hyatt
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