.There were no floor plans to be found since the City Building Department burned down in 1955 (although I do hear tell that there are a full set inside the theatre) - The interior shots above are with courtesy of the SD Theatre Organ Society along with the photo original ticket booth, when the theatre was last open ~ the library provided the Beatles Movie opening ~ the lobby interior and white marble staircase with the decorative railings ~ the opening leaflet I found in the archives of the library ~ I have many more shots that will be used to recreate the beauty that once was the Historic California Theatre in San Diego!
The Davenports - California Theatre Resurrection Project
If you live in San Diego you know that this is one of the ugliest most blighted buildings downtown. What you may not know is that before it became this eyesore this is what they used to say about the Historic California Theatre. When researching the life of the theatre I inquired to every agency in the City, County, and agency in San Diego. Looking in the Library I found some information even more when I had the good fortune while trying to find out what happened to the theatre organ I met the President of the San Diego Theatre Organ Society, Connie Rheardon. She shared many stories and pictures with me on the theatre.
Many people have asked about the theatre over the years but none have gone as far as staying with and learning to love the building and it's prospects for a new life until she met me.
In an article in the archives of the main library (the original one) I found the following written about the theatre and share it with you.
“San Diego's premier movie palace, the California Theatre was heralded as the "Cathedral of the Motion Picture" when it opened on April 22, 1927."
The grand Spanish Colonial Revival style single-screen theatre and office building is listed on the local Register of Historical Resources, although it has been shuttered and decaying for over twenty years.
Ownership recently transferred to an out-of-town investment firm after the previous owners, another investment company, went bankrupt.
Currently it sits, as it has for years on the Save Our Heritage Organisations most endangered historic resources list.
This has saved the theatre over the years from over-zealous developers who only see the land and not the opportunity to create something wonderful for the City, something the citizens of the Arts & Entertainment world can see as a home and a place to begin and continue to ply their trades.
Another source found in one of the many books I plowed through I found this...
"The California's opulent interior originally featured gold leaf ceilings, murals, a huge Wurlitzer organ, and was able to seat 2200 film goers. In the 1970s, it became a memorable concert venue.
Shortly after a 1988 renovation, it closed and came under imminent threat of demolition. Miraculously, it is still standing but vacant two decades later."
Occupying almost half a block of prime downtown real estate, its fate continues to lie in the balance as options are being considered to expand the City Hall complex and redevelop C Street.
Meanwhile, only a few blocks away, the newly restored and reopened Balboa Theatre (owned and paid for by the City) stands as a triumph of preservation.
Considered throughout much of its history to be unsuitable for "respectable" women to attend, the Balboa now demonstrates how investment in historic resources can benefit both the local economy and local pride.
Like the Balboa, the California desperately deserves its long-overdue second chance to shine after years of neglect and vandalism ~ we will give it that chance!
Located in Downtown San Diego on the North side of C Street, its entrance is on Fourth Avenue, the California Theatre sits neglected on 20,000 sq. ft. of prime real estate.
That is all the other developers see, the City sees nothing but a decaying old building that they no longer know what to do with.
The building is falling apart that much is true but it doesn't need to end that way, and when we have our way it won't. Now the marquee is gone along with the blade sign (not visible in many pictures), the iconic statues and water features on the sides are either missing or crumbling, infested with vermin, it has become where the homeless sleep and almost unrecognizable as a theatre, it has been closed for almost 20 years.
This is the last historic theatre in the city left to rot but not forgotten or unloved by the people of San Diego.
Saving the building is so expensive that gutting it or destroying it became the most popular options to every developer and the owner, until the Save Our Heritage Org., put the building on the local historic registry list and saved it from destruction.
Since they cannot destroy it and don’t want to operate it as a theatre there is no big money developer interest in the building any longer so here it sits rotting away. Being a lover of historic architecture and it seems, almost lost causes I have dedicated the last 6 years of my life to researching the best use and most responsible way of saving this beautiful theatre.Understanding that as being in such bad condition this would not be an easy task, nor is it for the faint of heart, I set out to develop a viable financially profitable concept that; the historical agencies, City government and Redevelopment agency and the citizens would be pleased with and once again proud of!