Alisal Theatre

624 E. Alisal Street,
Salinas, CA 93905

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Lion Statue from Auditorium

This theatre bore an exterior very similar to that of the Loyola Theatre in Los Angeles. They did not share the same architect, and the Loyola was the more graceful of the two. The Alisal boasted an abundant use of neon. The auditorium had a covelit vaulted ceiling. Flanking the proscenium were matching plaster freestanding sculptures of striding lions, backed by sculpted foliage. The same style of ornaments were used when the Alex Theatre in Glendale was Skourasized, and are now on display in that theatre’s lobby). The seating was stadium style.

The Alisal was built to serve the repidly growing East Side of Salinas in April of 1947. It was a first class theatre built for a neighborhood which never amounted to first-class status, grow though it did. The theatre’s life was relatively short. The theatres Downtown on Main Street (Crystal, Fox California, El Rey, and Vogue) outlasted the neighborhood Alisal by a substantial margin, though only the Fox California is currently useable—and used occasionally—today, and the Crystal was demolished this year.

The Alisal later housed a carpet store, then later became a indoor model racecar track. Today, the building survives, shorn of its massive neon roof crest and marquee and with a flat sheet metal facade tacked over the original, undulating one. The sturdy concrete shape of the building still shouts “former theatre” to those who can recognize such things. Out front, a pink tinted sidewalk etched with a crosshatched pattern stretches the entire width of the building, and leads to a swirling terrazzo pavement with an imprint of the box office, mostly obscured by a row of modern aluminum-framed entrance doors.

Contributed by Gary Parks, Jim Rankin

Recent comments (view all 11 comments)

tomdelay on January 30, 2006 at 12:26 pm

If you know where to look, you can still see bits of the polished terrazzo stone in the sidewalk that was once the entrance to the Alisal Fox.

We gained access into the building about 1995 or so and climbed all about the upper reaches of the former theatre. The streamlined neon lit coving is still above the drop ceiling complete with the neon Franceformers still in place. Remains of an old restroom was also seen at about the cross-over level.

The interior was absolutely spectacular for a 1940s era theatre. Highly stylized art deco plaster lions guarded the proscenium. It is a shame this theatre was lost. It was a spectauclar Skouras style theatre. Up until the late 1960s, a large “skate” tower stood above the entrance to the Alisal Fox. That was demolished when the interior was converted to retail use. Some time later, an addition was made to the building beyond the stage area that just about doubled the size of the building.

rsimpson on January 30, 2006 at 7:53 pm

Two minor nitpicks: it is on Alisal Street, not Alisal Road and it was a carpet store BEFORE it became a model racecar track.

tomdelay on January 30, 2006 at 10:49 pm

It is a carpet/linoleum store now. Alisal Street was originally Alisal Road.

Alisal Street still converts to Alisal Road when it gets out into the country side. When the Alisal Fox was built, Salinas and Alisal were two seperate entities—one incorporated, the other not. Old timers still speak of East Salinas as “The Alisal”.

It is entirely likely that, when the Alisal Fox opened, it WAS on Alisal Road.

William on March 28, 2006 at 3:24 pm

The Alisal Theatre was part of the Fox West Coast Theatres chain.

tomdelay on June 20, 2007 at 5:16 pm

As can be seen in the photo, it was very similar to the Loyola in LA.

When the building was redone for its retail use, the “skate” above the entrance was removed. It was a very nice art modern theatre on the inside. Except above the drop ceiling, none of the interior remains.

tomdelay on February 2, 2008 at 1:27 am

This building burned to the ground early this morning.

tomdelay on February 2, 2008 at 2:00 am

Former Alisal Fox Theatre burns

View link

Mutual aid praised in quelling Salinas Swap Meet blaze

The indoor Swap Meet on East Alisal Street was gutted in a morning fire which brought in firefighters from stations throughout the county. Here, Salinas firefighter Dillan Bowman works inside the side entrance to the Indoor Swap Meet.

Fire investigators are expected to reveal tonight the cause of a massive four-alarm blaze that broke out at H & M Jewelry Indoor Swap Meet in Salinas this morning, according to fire Captain Phil Vanderhorst.

Fire broke out at the two-story, 20,000-square-foot building on the 600 block of East Alisal Street sometime overnight and was reported about 8:45 a.m., firefighters said. It took more than three hours to bring it under control, Vanderhorst said.

“I saw the smoke billowing right off the top of the building, coming out of the stacks and everything,” said Anthony Villafranca, who was on his way to work Friday morning. “There was smoke like crazy, so it had a good start.”

There were no reported injuries.

The building is still structurally sound but there was quite a bit of damage to its contents. The building housed about 20 separate vendors, according to Vanderhorst.

Firefighters were hauling burned materials out of the building this afternoon, he said.

Because the building was filled with clothing, luggage and other combustible goods, the department called on other fire crews from around Monterey County to help. At least 25 trucks responded, making it the “equivalent of a four-alarm fire.”

Fire teams from the North County Fire Authority, the Monterey Peninsula Airport and Cal Fire helped control the blaze.

“For a big incident, we can swarm down, almost link arms and go stomp (the fire) out,” said Chris Orman, chief of the North County Fire Department. “The mutual aid in this county, this state is phenomenal.”

Witnesses said the sprawling building probably caught fire late last night or early this morning.

Throughout the morning, crews worked in 15- to 20-minute shifts to extinguish smoldering rubble.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. cut the electricity to a small part of East Alisal, but restored power around 10:30 a.m., said PG&E’s Randy Washington. East Alisal at Hebbron Avenue was temporarily shut down.

Authorities are investigating the cause of the fire and hope to have an answer within the next few days, as well as an estimate of the damages, Loomis said.

kencmcintyre on November 8, 2008 at 2:13 pm

Looks like the swap meet is back in business:

Dramatrauma on March 31, 2010 at 7:16 am

Wow! I clicked on that 1947 photo and me and I did a double take. “That was in Salinas? Pretty glamorous for a farm town.” was the second reaction. The first:“Is that…a hood ornament?”

LBorg on February 12, 2011 at 11:23 pm

What a shame the theatre burned down.
My Uncle was Lawrence Borg. He built the theatre in 1947

In 1928 he became half owner of the Crystal Theatre Lease and Business in Salinas, California. View link Under the Name of Crystal Theatre Company, , Inc., and was president of the corporation which in 1935 built the El Rey Theatre in Salinas. This corporation was dissolved in 1941, after which he was owner of half of the Crystal Theatre lease and business and El Ray Theatre property and business. In 1953 the Crystal Theatre property was sold, although he maintained a one-half interest in the El Rey Theatre until the close of this life.
Borg Also built the Alisal Theatre in Salinas in 1947 /theaters/7170/ and was part owner of that property with John Peters and Fox West Coast Theatres until he sold his interest in 1949.

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