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The Cerrito restoration received a California Preservation Foundation 2007 Preservation Design Award:
Thanks for the newspaper citation (every little bit helps) and your response to my inquiry of a year ago. As you can see above, I had other responses at the time, and also did more research. And as it happens, I am acquainted with the author of the Davis Historical Society PDF file that you cite above, which incorporates my research in the year since my Feb 2007 inquiry here.
The city has approved construction of a smaller 2nd screen theater in the back part of the Varsity (the part behind the main screen that was turned into dressing rooms etc for a performance venue in the 1990’s remodeling; when most of the original interior was finally destroyed.)
The current use as an indy film theatre is doing well, and the gelato concession is operating in the east front of building which originally was a small store front occupied for 50 years by a local insurance agency.
The City of Davis owns both the Varsity and the 1800’s mansion property next door; both are city Landmarks; the mansion is on the National Register and the theatre qualifies to be.
As mentioned above, the plans to open a cafe “next door” to the Varsity by one of the current theatre partners are proceeding when the city fathers & mothers recently voted to approve the cafe project after a long & highly contentious environmental impact process.
Sadly for the case of historic preservation, the cafe, to be located in the ground floor of a new modern 2 or 3 story office building between the two historic landmarks, will involve sale or lease and clearing the small hundred year old orange grove on the mansion property and relocating the mansion’s 130 year old Tank House. The Mansion will lose about 1/3 to ½ of its remaining gardens as the new building will fill most of the space between the theatre and mansion, drastically altering the visual relationship between the two buildings that has been unchanged since the Varsity was built in 1950.
The modern cafe building project was supported by the downtown business interests and friends of the theatre operators, but virtually unanimously opposed by the historic preservation community, including the city’s own Historic Commission, causing a nasty split in local historic interest groups who otherwise applauded the reopening and renovation of the Varsity.
A rec room doesn’t sound like a good location for glass artifacts of historic value. I understood that in the EIR a mitigation for demolition was placement of the best artifacts with a historical society was required. Instead as so often happens the scavangers got there first and now it looks like the developers are getting to use the glass for decorating the project. It’s better than having them destroyed, but for a project that demolished a significant historic resource, with unavoidable (unmitigated) significant impacts on the environment requiring a finding of overriding public interest, this whole scene is a sad comment on how little protection there really is for historic resources against a determined developer. Once again the developer gets off scott free.
Can someone tell me what is the basis for attributing this theatre to William B. David? Is there some kind of documentary evidence, such as plans on file at the City of Eureka building department or a newspaper article from the time it was built?
Re: Alhambra & National Register
This just points up an ongoing problem in historic preservation: Many, if not most people think that putting a building on the National Register protects it from demolition. Actually it affords no, nada, zilch protection. Nothing prevents the owner of a national register landmark from demolishing it, or altering it for that matter. (Alteration may be grounds for delisting, but can’t be prevented.) Also, a building can’t be listed without the owner’s consent. So the ONLY and BEST protection for historic structures is a strong LOCAL historic preservation ordinance, especially one with two components (California ordinances usually have these): local listing does not depend on owner consent, and demolition requires a review and hearing. In California this usually means at least an EIR (Environmental Impact Report), which if nothing else, gives the public time to rally the troops. But ultimately, if the local public doesn’t give a hoot, the building is a goner. If there’s a building you care about, start agitating to get it listed on your local register of historic places, get on the mailing list for your local historic commission and city government, and show up every time something to do with your building is on an agenda.
Does anyone know when the Marysville Tower was built?
The Varsity opening was actually Thursday April 6th, following the interior remodeling, including a beautiful new concession stand faced with copper, and the foyer redone in a rich red color scheme, new carpet etc. Besides the feature “Thank You for Smoking”, the program included a short film on the history of movies and movie theaters in Davis.
My guess on that last name is either plain “TREE” or “THE TREE” or maybe “PINE TREE” as clearly there isn’t another letter after “TREE” (so it can’t be “STREET”), because there is a dividing band above the “T” and whatever letter (if it is one) or decorative object is above the “T”; and also because up and down the right side of the sign there are little triangular tree symbols, like Christmass trees. Klamath Falls was after all logging country.
Postcard view of Alhambra at Sacramento Library:
The last film I saw at the Alhambra was “A Man for All Seasons” with my Mom. Demolishing that theater in unforgivable, the biggest historical preservation tragedy of Sacramento.
The various libraries of the University of California
(Berkeley, UCLA) have the Southwest Builders on microfilm and/or paper. If you don’t have access to one of those, go to your local library and see if they can get the microfilm for you:
Title Southwest builder and contractor.
Publisher [Los Angeles : F.W. Dodge Co.]
Description 98 v. in 186 ill. 31 cm.
Publishing History v. 50-147, no. 12; July 6, 1917-Mar. 25, 1966.
Note Formed by the union of Builder and contractor and Southwest contractor and manufacturer
The original July 1949 plans for the Davis Varsity Theater confirm that the designer was “William B. David & Associates”, “Industrial Designers” San Francisco. The plans were signed by an architect named Horstmann; this is typical of David’s MO: because he wasn’t licensed, submitted plans were always signed by a licensed architect or engineer of the firm, but David was the actual designer.
The city owned Varsity has just been leased by a local group who intend to operate it as a single screen art/indy film theater after making some upgrades & alterations, mainly to the interior.
Oops, sorry, not Lark, PALM in San Mateo.
The photo link above (actually from Special Collections, UC Davis) was taken in 1951, when the theatre was about a year old. By 1953 the house to the left was replaced by a bank building. The house to the right is still there (it’s on the National Register).
To see a sister theatre (design-wise), check out the photo links for the Lark in San Mateo (just demolished in July 2005)
Opened June 9, 1950 with 850 seats.
Interior decoration by Santocono of San Francisco.
Architect “unknown” but strong possibility William Bernard David.
Only recently designated a City Landmark (1998).
The $800,000 1992 renovation for legit theater under city ownership essentially reduced the auditorium to half its original size/seats (400), installed performance theater stage & facilities (dressing rooms, etc. at the screen end), which removed whatever was left of the original end of the auditorium & the proscenium & murals (after the twinning; I’m not sure what was left after that), removed the foyer concession stand to make doors to access a special seating platform at the back, and in general eliminated all traces of the original interior, including whatever was left of the murals.
All that’s left of the original interior is the neon over where the concession stand used to be and a curved wall that used to have a mural, now covered with weird wallpaper. All this was before the Landmark designation, so stuff, like destroying the murals, happened that wouldn’t have if it had had historic resource protection, to prevent somebody remodelling or redesigning it to suit their own ideas.
The exterior also has taken its lumps over the years, including the recent renovation: it has been painted white, so the original color scheme (earth tones) and textures (brick, concrete) are negated, along with a number of other original design features. Some weird “artist” etched doors were added. The original blue, white & silver terrazzo floor of the lobby/entry is still there.
The theater is now closed more or less since the local theater group found quarters elsewhere. A proposal to do another renovation and operate by private company as a single screen art/indy theater is under review Sep-Oct 2005; the main idea is to get some kind of economically sustainable operation on the property.
Seth, did you photograph the Yuba City theater?
Where is the ticket booth, in the center, or off to once side?
Is this the only historic theater in Klamath Falls?
Was it ever called the “Tower”, or just the “Esquire”?
Is the photo after restoration?
Seth & DSTNE, thanx very much, very helpful! And I know about trying to get mirrors and such to come out well, especially in dark theater lobbies/foyers, but our best efforts may be all that’s left all too often. I spent Sun. on a “secret mission” to record an endangered property because as soon as the property owner/developer got an inkling that the structure was of interest historically, he put up No Trespassing signs all over and threatened to lock out the last tenants, whose lease ran out a week ago but were still going in on sufferance to move out the last of their things. So a couple of us went in as moving help and did what we could in bad light and short notice.
I see from Seth’s photos that the neighbors to the Lark parked across the sidewalk. It’s a wonder someone didn’t seriously crunch the planter box. How did all that glass/mirrors outside survive so long? Amazing!
Were the palms etched on mirrors, or colored glass? or colored glass with mirror behind? Green?
The dwarf mirror photo is terrific, especially considering the circumstances.
Gary, what is your source for “Balch & Stanberry” as designers? (newspaper, building plans?)
Also, does any one have a photo of this theater from the front?
Seth, could you post your photo link here, please? I’d very much like to see them.
Re: who designed it. According to architectural historian David Wilkinson in “crafting a Valley Jewel” (about Woodland CA architecture, has a bio of William Bernard David), Wm. David was never a licensed architect, and he worked under/for S. Charles Lee for some years. Because of his lack of license, Wilkinson says that while David designed and oversaw the construction of many of these theaters, he often had a licensed architect or engineer sign off on the plans.
David is known to have designed the State in Woodland, but S.C. Lee is signed off on the plans. This may well be the case with Gridley and others of these smaller town theaters. See my comment on the San Mateo Palm theater.
DSTNE, that’s tremendously helpful.
Is the photo digital? would you be willing to email it to me, or post it on a photo site at least temporarily?
Everybody: What San Mateo has trashed after the PC declared it “architecturally insignificant” is beginning to look like very possibly the next to last – chronologically – or at least one of the latest – theaters William Bernard David designed, and one of his most mature and original in style. The commentator or critics were getting increasingly confused as to how to characterize his style, usually settling for Art Deco or Streamline Moderne, but by the late ‘40’s, that doesn’t quite fit any longer.
I believe he was headed into Modernism, and getting more creative as he went in that direction. A very interesting designer, and certainly greatly important in Cal theater design, especially regionally. Hardly insignificant, except to a PC tickled to have a reason to get a “neighborhood nuisance” out of their hair.
The knowledge that I missed seeing the Palm by a mere matter of months makes me sick; it’s like discovering one of your extended family who could solve a family mystery has died just months before you located them.
Turning into a porn house was certainly a mixed blessing; on the one hand, the Palm wouldn’t have survived as long as it did, as intact as it apparently was, if it hadn’t been “adult”, and on the other, that was the death of it.
For a bio of David by a Northern Cal architectural historian, see David L. Wilkinson, “Crafting a Valley Jewel, Architects and Builders of Woodland”.
I’ve looked at the big B&W photo of the Palm linked above.
Can someone tell me if the mottled/stripy looking siding of the entrance, around the ticket booth and poster cases,
is brick or something else? If it brick was it a really thin type, about half the thickness or ordinary brick?
I’m researching another theater that has been “architect unknown”, but may be by Wm. David too.
Does anyone know why this is called the “Davis”?
was it associated with the Davis Theater chain?
If so, what is known about that chain?