Bush Theatre

301-321 C Street,
San Diego, CA 92101

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This theatre opened in 1920, according to the San Diego Historical Society. In 1924, a small Wurlitzer, opus 777 style 109-C was installed.

The organ was taken back by the Wurlitzer Company and moved to the Kinema Theatre in Florence-Graham, CA. The organ was moved in 1930 to the Bressee Bros. and Gilette Mortuary in Los Angeles. The organ was purchased by this author in 1982 and is totally intact.

If anyone can supply further information about either the Bush Theatre or the Florence-Graham Kinema Theatre, it would be greatly appreciated.

Contributed by Tom DeLay

Recent comments (view all 7 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 27, 2006 at 1:33 am

Tom: I’m wondering about the name Florence-Graham, CA. The only Florence I know of in the state is the old unincorporated area sandwiched between south central L.A. and the cities of Huntington Park and South Gate. I’ve never seen the hyphenated name Florence-Graham before.

There were once theatres called the Kinema in downtown Los Angeles (later the Fox Criterion), Fresno and Long Beach. I’ve checked the L.A. library’s California Index and can’t find any other theatres with that name (the index is far from exhaustive, though.) The only theatre I know of in the Florence area was the Fox Florence Theatre, but the area developed early and certainly must have had other theatres.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 27, 2006 at 1:41 am

Tom: Apparently, the name Florence-Graham does refer to the district of Florence southeast of Downtown Los Angeles. I just came across this PDF file in the California Index, and though it says nothing about the theatres there, it does contain a paragraph confirming the early use of the hyphenated name for the area. That’s where you should expect to find your Kinema Theatre, if its building still exists.

tomdelay
tomdelay on July 28, 2006 at 4:13 am

Yes, I saw mention of the Bush Theatre in the theatre section of the San Diego Historical Society pages. It must not have been a very large theatre with just a tiny 3-rank Wurlitzer. The organ was repo'ed and then sent north.

Somewhere, I read that there was a later and larger Bush Theatre, undoubtedly the Egyptian, but it did not have a Wurlitzer. Without my other lists in front of me, I have no idea what organ was in the Egyptian. It was not a Robert Morton—as I just checked the on-line version of that list. Seems to me it was a Link or Kilgen. Can’t recall.

Thanks for the sleuthing Joe. As we communicated on the Compton Ave. Kinema page, that SW corner of Firestone and Compton is now occupied by what looks to be a modern structure with lots of parking lot around it. Oh well. I have an e-mail out to Ken Roe to see if he can find any info on what was probably nearby—the Graham Theatre—possibly on Graham Ave?? The 4 rank Wurlitzer in that theatre, Opus 860, was repo'ed and sent to the original Hanford Theatre and enlarged when the new present Hanford Fox opened in 1930.

I am rather excited by all this. I have been trying to find out information on the first and second theatre homes of my little Wurlitzer since I bought it in 1982. When I bought the organ, it was located in a mortuary out on West Vermont—on mortuary row—not too far from the Florence-Graham location. All very insteresting.

tomdelay
tomdelay on July 28, 2006 at 2:26 pm

Exactly. Wow! I am halfway impressed with myself for sort of recalling that the Bush/Capri had either a Link or Kilgen. Link was a very rare instrument this far west of New York.

Opus 777 is a piano console (one of fewer than 10 intact electro-pneumatic piano console organs left in the world.) The organ was in:

Opus 777 (1924)
A (G.A.) Bush Theatre San Diego style 109B (actually a 109-C)
B Kinema Theatre (Florence)-Graham
C Bressee Bros. Mortu. LA
D Tom DeLay Res. Fresno, CA
E Tom DeLay Res. Salinas, CA

The organ was reposessed by Wurlitzer from the Bush Theatre and sent to the Kinema Theatre in Graham (Florence-Graham/Huntington Park)

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, another area theatre, the Graham Theatre, contained Opus 860 Wurlitzer, a style B of 2 manuals and 4 ranks. It was reposessed and sent to the original Hanford Theatre and then rebuilt for the new Fox Hanford Theatre in 1930.

I wonder if the Kinema and the Graham Theatres may have actually been the same theatre renamed???

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on July 30, 2006 at 1:29 am

LM: Graham referred to an unincorporated area a few miles south of downtown Los Angeles, lying roughly between Central Avenue on the west, the South Gate city limits on the east, the Watts district of Los Angeles on the south, and the unincorporated Florence district on the north. At times, the whole area has been referred to as Florence-Graham.

Graham was named for an employee of the Pacific Electric Railroad, which opened its Los Angeles-Long Beach line in 1902. The subdivision of Graham may have been a project of Henry Huntington’s own development company. I haven’t been able to track that down yet, though. The Graham P.E. station was located at Manchester Avenue, now called Firestone Boulevard.

My earliest map of the area dates from about 1950, and by that time there was no longer a Main Street in the Graham area. It’s likely that the name had been changed to avoid confusion with Main Street in Los Angeles, which ran about a mile west of Graham. I don’t know what the name of the street might have been changed to, though. It’s possible that it was an earlier name for a stretch of what is now Compton Avenue.

There are no longer any three-digit addresses on north-south streets in the area either. It now uses the L.A. City-County numbering system that starts at 1st and Main Streets downtown.

kencmcintyre
kencmcintyre on March 19, 2009 at 11:32 pm

Here is part of a 1937 lawsuit concerning the Bush Theater:

The appellant owns a building in San Diego in which are located a theater, certain stores and an office. A previous owner had leased the entire building for twenty-five years from January 1, 1911, to January 1, 1936. On December 29, 1930, Alice N. Bush acquired this lease which had theretofore been assigned several times. For some years before 1930 the Pacific National Theater Company had been operating the theater in this building. It continued to operate the theater as a subtenant of Alice N. Bush until October 8, 1934, when it gave up its lease on the theater and transferred the theater equipment to her. On October 20, 1934, she conveyed the theater equipment by bill of sale to the respondent in this action. On the same day she transferred the lease on the building to G. A. Bush and K. G. Bush, who were her father-in-law and husband, respectively. G. A. Bush operated the theater from the time the Pacific National Theater Company ceased to operate it until some time in December, 1934. Thereafter the theater was operated by one Hartman until May 20, 1935. On that day the personal property involved in this action was removed by the respondent to a warehouse. The appellant attached this property at the warehouse for unpaid rent on the building from February to May, 1935, inclusive. The respondent put in a third party claim, the appellant put up a bond and held the property and this action followed.

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