Showing 251 - 272 of 272 comments
When the theatre was still known as Brown’s Opera House, there was a photo taken from the balcony. The orchestra pit was rimmed by what looked like a brass pipe. An upright piano was in the pit’s center. To the immediate left and right of the stage were large box
seats with what looks to be plaster organ pipes above and behind.
The square opening of the proscenium had a large keystone at the dead center of the arch.
When the theatre was demolished, the footlights were still in place.
I was in the theatre circa 1975/76. There was not much left other than the large Phoenix on the ceiling. The box seats and plaster grills (?) were scraped out as was the orchestra pit. It is known that the theatre had some sort of an organ—two windline holes went through the pit wall of about 4" and about 2". This would indicate that theatre might have had a style 45 American Fotoplayer organ as the pit piano and swell boxes used windline sizes of 4" and 2".
In the poor light in 1975/76, it looked like all the walls had been
scraped clean. The side walls toward the balcony had some sort of fabric painted the same color as the auditorium (white as I recall).
When the theatre was demolished a year ago, stenciled walls came into view behind the rotted fabric. These stencils are still visible on the north side wall common with the building next door.
The new 14 plex is under construction and will, in time cover up these stencils. The outline of the former balcony is also visible on this wall.
I understand the facade WAS to have remained. When this facade was demolished, a major project investor pulled out in disgust over the facade destruction.
The proscenium arch WAS NOT lined with exposed light bulbs as I mentioned in an earlier posting. The walls/columns of the arch appeared to be wood. The exposed light bulbs were on a movable frame that outlined the picture sheet.
I took many digtal photos of the Crystal’s destruction.
I would like to invite Mr. Richardson down to see the Monterey State Theatre (about to begin a restoration process). I am in the local phone book 831 area code. Tom DeLay
The 2 manual 8 rank Wurlitzer pipe organ is now owned by George Pope of Visalia and installed in a special building on his property.
This theatre was the original Merced Theatre. In 1921 a small 5-rank Wurlitzer organ was shipped to this theatre. At some point, supposedly, a fire took place around 1931 (or so) that destroyed the organ (which was to have been enlarged and installed in the new Merced Theatre). Both Merced theatres were part of Golden State Theatres, later United California Theatres, later still United Artists.
As of October 1, 2004, this theatre was purchased by an investor from the Los Angeles area who plans to restore the building. The first major project will be the removal of the walls dividing the balcony into two small cracker-box auditoriums. The entire auditorium has not been seen since 1976. New seats will follow. It is planned to have the theatre reopened by January 1, 2005.
The theatre will be having a combination of classic films, silent films, live performances, periodic programs on the Wurlitzer organ, conferences and as an adjunct facility for the Monterey Conference Center two blocks away.
It is my understanding the owners of the organ are removing the Wurlitzer. Hopefully a far better venue than the Hestor (Towne)
Theatre will be found for the fine former State-Lake Chicago Wurlitzer. The Wurlitzer will live on…eventually. The poor, hopelessly remodeled Hestor/Towne, who knows?
Does the Merced’s restoration still include bringing back the unique Reid Bros. atmospheric auditorium and architecture? With an 80' wide stage (including wing space), the stage and lobby are largely original—even if much of the lobby is painted-out.
The auditorium was a different matter with virtually nothing left of the original 1931 Spanish-style atmospheric auditorium interior/proscenium.
Actually the Aztec Theatre contained a 3 manual 11 rank Robert Morton theatre organ not a Wurlitzer. The Morton organ also contained a piano. Other San Antonio theatres with Morton organs: Empire (1920), Majestic (1929), Princess (1922). The large Boller Bros. Texas Theatre contained a large Wurlitzer that is now in the Fitzgerald Theatre in Saint Paul, MN.
The stage opening of the Monterey Theatre was 36' side and had a fly loft.
The Liberty Theatre had a large Robert-Morton pipe organ which must have had a memorable impact in this 1100 seat theatre. The organ was built in late 1921 and installed in 1922. The organ contained 3 manuals and 20 ranks of pipes distributed in three pipe chambers. There was a grand piano in the orchestra pit that also played from the organ console. Both the piano and organ console were on hydraulic lifts. When the Liberty was demolished in 1983, the old organ lift was uncovered, still in place.
The Robert Morton organ was purchased in 1941 by Grace Baptist Church in San Jose where it remains. The church totally rebuilt the organ in 1984 after much damage by earlier organ enthusiasts and “professional” organ service people.
As it did in the Liberty, the organ still has a remarkable impact in the church. It is the only original theatre organ to San Jose still in the city.
The architect for the Grove Theatre of 1925 was Mark T. Jorgensen of San Francisco, not the SF firm of Reid Bros. The theatre originally seated 1000: 700 on the main floor, 150 in the loges and another 150 in the upper balcony. A sole surviving architect’s drawing of the auditorium shows a magnificent auditorium with mural-backed side coves, smaller side wall coves at audience level, canopied side boxes where a pipe organ would normally be installed (the Grove’s Wurlitzer was installed above the center of the proscenium arch). Two scrolled pillars flanked the proscenium opening with each being topped by a plaster California state bear.“”
In the tome above, I made it sound as if the Wurlitzer organ was removed in 1989. Not true. The organ was removed during the early days of the depression.
The State IV was originally known as the Strand Theatre leased from the BPOE who had their lodge hall above the theatre.
In the early ‘40s, the Strand became the Rio and still later, Regency. The State IV name was applied to the Regency as an adjunct to the 3 screens across Alvarado Street at the UA State Theatre.
When the theatre first opened in 1904, it was called the T. A. Work Opera House. Tom Work was a local business man who also owned a lumber yard between Monterey and Pacific Grove.
The Humason Family live and breathe this theatre. In 1989, we installed a 2 manual 10 rank Wurlitzer (mostly from the LA Westlake Theatre) that is regularly used for concerts and silent films by the Sequoia Chapter American Theatre Organ Society.
The Humasons have done a superb job of bringing this theatre back to life. The lobby was in a very sad state when they took ownership.
They recast much of the plasterwork in the lobby from photos. The auditorium is magnificent.
Inasmuch as I am the crew leader on this organ installation, a few comments are in order.
The Fox (California) (T & D) opened in November 1921. The original architect was A.W. Cornelius who also did the design of the California Theatre in Pitsburg, CA and the California Theatre in Richmond, CA. Though different, all three theatres had very similar Grecian facades.
The Salinas facade still exists, but was covered over in a remodel of the theatre in 1948. Newspaper photos clearly show the columns arched windows and statues being covered over by the “new” chevron design.
The auditorium was remodeled along the Skouras line at the same time.
A previous remodel of the theatre saw the original interior gutted and replaced with an art deco theme. That plaster work still exists beneath the walls on either side of the stage and are visible from behind in the areas where the original organ (2 manual 14 rank Gschoeff “Chef”) was installed.
The present organ is installed on the stage and is from the San Francisco El Capitan Theatre of 1928. The 3 manual 11 rank organ was installed by volunteers from Nor Cal Theatre Organ Society:
At present(fall 2002), the theatre’s future is very clouded.
It is hoped the City of Salinas or responsible non-profit will take on the project of purchase and restoration.
The 1921 Strand Theatre contained a 2 manual 5 rank Robert Morton pipe organ played by a Harry Banister.
What a crime that this theatre was converted to retail uses. The store that made the conversion/gutting failed and the building sat closed for many years.
Indeed the facade of the Crystal is supposed to be retained for the new cineplex.
The Crystal opened in 1916 as Brown’s Opera House (#2). The place was eventually leased to Turner and Dahnken (T & D) and the name changed to T & D. That name was transferred to the new (1921) T & D Theatre that is presently known as the Fox California Theatre. With the new T & D of 1921, the Crystal name was applied to the present building. The building has been closed since 1972.
The theatre was hopelessly remodeled with the opera boxes, orchestra pit, organ and all removed. There are good photos of this theatre’s auditorium interior on file with the Monterey County Historical Society.
During a visit to the Crystal in 1975, only the light bulb-studded proscenium and a large phoenix was still painted on the ceiling were all that was left of the original interior.
Curiously, no known photos exist of the later, 1921 T & D Theatre.
The El Cap also now contains the famous 4 manual 36 rank Wurlitzer from the late, great San Francisco Fox Theatre (1929-1963. Cheers to the Disney Corporation for placing this magnificent instrument in the El Cap!
I was working in Visalia much of Sept. 16-19, 2002. At night, the neon-lit clock of the FOX is stunning. Unfortunately, the house was between engagements and I did not get to see the auditorium now returned to single status.
The Fox Bakersfield opened in 1930 or 31.
Photos of the original auditorium as designed by Lee show a magnificent atmospheric auditorium. Unfortunately, after the 1952 earthquakes, the auditorium was redone in the Skouras style. The Spanish-style “buildings” in front of the organ screens were demolished and draped. The rest of the auditorium decor in the Skouras style covered most of the earlier work by Lee. AS it has been since 1952, the theatre is a good example of a Skouras style.
The Warnors Theatre, nee Pantages also houses the last original installation Robert Morton pipe organ in California. The 4 manual 14 rank instrument is also the last such Pantages instrument still installed beneath the stage in the US. The organ’s pipes speak into the orchestra pit.
The Caglia Family is to be commended for their attention to both the theatre and the pipe organ.