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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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A star is reborn


Herbert Mueller is reflected in a ceiling star that was a part of the original Fox Theater decor. 
 (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Herbert Mueller is reflected in a ceiling star that was a part of the original Fox Theater decor. (Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

A decorative mirrored star taken from the ceiling of the Fox Theater more than 30 years ago will be returned to the theater where it can shine down on audiences once again.

Herbert Mueller, a retired dentist living in north Spokane, has offered to donate the star to the theater.

He said his wife, Pamela, who was working as a secretary for the plumbers union in 1975, was given the star by one of the plumbers involved in converting the theater to a triplex movie house.

It was one of about two dozen smaller stars that hung from the ceiling. About half of them are missing. Also missing are the Fox’s original furniture and medium-sized star light fixtures that radiated from the central sunburst light fixture on the auditorium’s ceiling.

They were all part of the elaborate decor that’s being brought back to life as construction workers modernize the 1931 art deco theater, which is expected to reopen in November.

Each star is made of eight triangular pieces of mirrored glass. Half the pieces are etched with a featherlike pattern and are juxtaposed against plain mirrored glass. The glass is set in a metal frame held in place with a pyramid-shaped clamp.

Mueller said the feathering was created by painting hide glue onto the mirror, which then caused it to crack in unique patterns.

Fox Theater officials said they are seeking other fixtures and furnishings that were taken out of the Fox. A woman who owns a light fixture taken from the women’s lounge has offered to return that piece as a donation as well, said Betsy Godlewski, development director for the project.

Mueller said he learned in an article in Sunday’s Spokesman-Review that the stars, wall murals and other decorations were being restored. He got in touch with the Fox Theater organization, which is overseeing the $26.5 million renovation. “It belongs back down at the Fox,” Mueller said.

For years it hung in Mueller’s den and later became part of the decorations inside his wood shop at the rear of his property along the Little Spokane River.

“If he wants to give it back to us, we’d be thrilled,” Godlewski said.

Mueller said he felt a little bit guilty about having the star, even though it was acquired legally.

The interior was the work of Dutch-born designer Anthony Heinsbergen, who was employed by William Fox, of Fox West Coast Studios, to carry out his vision for the movie- and theater-going experience. In Spokane, Heinsbergen combined the flowing forms of the art nouveau and modernist movements with the geometry of art deco.

Experts from EverGreene Painting Studios Inc., based in New York, recently started cleaning, restoring and replicating Heinsbergen’s design schemes.

Godlewski said that in addition to the fixtures, murals and paint schemes, the theater was decorated with distinctive floor lamps, sofas and other furniture all designed by Heinsbergen.

If anyone has furnishings or fixtures that they would like to return to the Fox, project officials can be reached at the Spokane Symphony Orchestra office at (509) 326-3136 or through foxtheaterspokane.com.

Some of the pieces may be replicated, including the missing mirrored stars, Godlewski said.

“What I think is exciting is that people have a piece of the Fox in their house and they’ve cared for it for 30 years,” she said.

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