Baywood Theater

359 South B Street,
San Mateo, CA 94401

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Opened in 1931, the Baywood Theatre was built for W.S. Leadley and was later operated by Fox-West Coast Theatres under the Northern California Peninsula District.

Anthony B. Heinsbergen was responsible for the interior decoration of the theatre.

Today, most of the details on the facade have been removed or rendered over and the interior has been partially gutted.

Contributed by KenRoe

Recent comments (view all 15 comments)

GaryParks on September 18, 2009 at 9:20 pm

In the American Classic Images vintage photo from 1942 put up by Lost Memory, something very interesting can be seen. This theatre was designed by S. Charles Lee. He remodeled the Coliseum Theatre in San Francisco around the same time, and the marquee he put on it is virtually identical to that of the built-from-scratch Baywood. The Lee-designed marquee remained on the Coliseum until its turn-of-the-millenium conversion to a Walgreens and condos. Over the years, the sunburst element was removed, along with much of the neon, and the reader boards were changed to plastic, but aside from that, the “Col”’s marquee survived the decades remarkably intact.
As for the Baywood’s interior, I have finally seen for myself what’s above the old Thrifty ceiling. Lengthy inspection revealed that there was even a third floor retrofitted into the converted building at one time, as some studs, walls, and outlines of even more walls and the third floor remain throughout. By and large though, it’s a big empty shell. Scraps of theatre structure do still remain, enough to have made the look-see well worthwhile. The steel beams of the balcony structure are mostly extant, sticking out into the space. Two sets of balcony fire escape doors (the lower still functional and the upper converted to windows in the 50s) survive, with indented boxes in the concrete walls where EXIT signs used to be, three porcelain bulb sockets still visible. The proscenium is completely gone, as are all vestiges of the entire auditorium ceiling. The walls are, however, a different story: Much acoustical plaster remains. Depending on whether a particular section of wall was visible to the public when there were businesses in the upper part of the converted space, sections of the walls are either painted over in beige, silvery grey, or…they still have mural painting preserved. Careful examination of the walls revealed that the most visible muralwork—flowers, trees, plants—is the result of a later, perhaps immediate Postwar, redecoration. Through these paintings, the oxidized outlines of the original “High Deco” geometric stripes, waves, sunrays, scrolls, and stylized leaf shapes bleed through. On some of the wall surfaces that were painted out after the theatre closed, oxidized paint patterns from both decorative schemes show though in varying degrees. Among these, three lifesize human figures can be discerned. One seems to be a toga-clad man standing in a boat, another appears to be a woman with one arm outstretched, and a third is so vague that all I could tell was that the figure was standing. There is some ornamental plaster extant. Large stepped ribs which ran along the uppermost areas of the sidewalls survive. Each terminated in a cast plaster Deco scroll, like a giant geometric snail shell. Two remain intact on the South wall of the auditorium, and one remains intact on the North Wall. On the North wall also, a series of stepped, quarter-circle ribs which swooped down to join the now-vanished walls which angled-in toward the proscenium can still be seen.
Back to the ghostly human figures showing through later paint, it was impossible for me to ascertain whether these figures belong to the first Deco scheme or the later, softer “Foliate Moderne” scheme. My hunch would be the latter. However, the fact that I have once seen a photo of the original proscenium, and there were niches with Greco-Deco statues in them might be a clue that the human figures on the walls were there to harmonize with the statues. More research into the UCLA files of S. Charles Lee theatre photos may solve this.

larrygoldsmith on October 3, 2009 at 6:13 pm


What is going on with that building now??? I know it is no longer a THRIFTY Drug.

GaryParks on February 9, 2010 at 9:28 pm

To answer Larry Goldsmith above: When I went in the remains of the Baywood in September ‘09, the building was almost totally vacant, save for a very nice used book store operating in the forward left portion of the former Thrifty’s space on the ground floor. The rest of downstairs still looks like a stripped 1950s Thrifty interior. The “Thrifty Cut Rate Drug Stores” terrazzo is still in the entrance. It is via a stairway at the back, dating from the Thrifty remodel, that you go up through the area where the proscenium used to be, and find yourself in the nearly gutted remains of the upper half of the auditorium.

larrygoldsmith on March 6, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Thanks for the update, Gary.

I was too young to remember the Baywood (operated by Fox West Coast), but I remember the manager and his asst. , who were then at the Fox San Mateo Theatre talking about how they still missed being there at the Baywood. And I always had to laugh, because the Baywood had been gone by then for 25 years!! I only can remember when it was Thrifty, and that’s been long gone for years.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on May 7, 2010 at 3:57 pm

Is the address listed above correct? I thought this theatre was downtown, not on El Camino.

tarantex on May 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Your right Scott It wasnt on El Camino it was on B street at 5th and 6 th ave.

kencmcintyre on May 7, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Would this be the theater building? On B Street between 3rd and 4th.

Scott Neff
Scott Neff on May 9, 2010 at 11:21 am

That’s the one.

larrygoldsmith on May 9, 2010 at 6:50 pm

ken mc

Yes, this is the old Baywood Theatre. Located on B St. between 3rd and 4th St. See my earlier post above in regard to location.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 16, 2011 at 4:12 am

As noted above, the Baywood Theatre was on B Street, not El Camino Real.

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