Grand Theater

110 S. Main Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 14, 2017 at 8:43 pm

An article about architect Sydney Lovell in the summer, 2003, issue of Marquee, by Barbara Coy Janssens, says that Lovell was working in partnership with James Wood when, in 1888, Wood received a commission to remodel the Grand Opera House. The project was completed in 1890.

As the house was only four years old when Wood was commissioned to remodel it, it seems likely that he, already noted as a theater architect, was brought in to correct shortcomings of the original design by Kysor and Morgan, who were not experienced in theater design.

I would imagine that most of Wood and Lovell’s work on the building had to do with the practical aspects of theater design, and focused on the stage facilities. Photos over the years don’t indicate any significant change in the style of the building, inside or out. It’s likely that the original gas lighting system was either replaced by or augmented with electric lighting as part of this project.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on June 25, 2011 at 6:50 am

A book published in 1892 called “The Bay of San Francisco” has a few paragraphs about Chicago theater architect J.M. Wood, who had designed the New California Theatre in San Francisco. It lists several of the theaters he designed, and the Grand Opera House in Los Angeles is among them.

As Keysor and Morgan had never designed a big theater, it seems likely that Ozro Childs would have wanted to have an established theater architect working with the local firm on such a major project. James M. Wood should be added to the list of architects for the Grand. It was not unusual for Wood to design theaters in buildings that were designed by other architects.

Wood later worked on the Burbank Theatre, a few blocks down Main Street in Los Angeles, and the Loring Opera House (Golden State Theatre) in Riverside, California. “The Bay of San Francisco” lists twenty theaters that had been designed by Wood as of 1892, and the list is not exhaustive.

drb on March 3, 2011 at 3:36 am

Here’s the new URL of the 1889 USC photo, which is a bit larger and clearer than the LAPL version of it.
View link

The caption says:
“Photograph of Main Street looking north from Second Street, ca.1889. The Childs Opera House is on the right, built 1883 and opened May 1884. Beyond it the bell tower is atop the headquarters of the Confidence Engine Company, a volunteer organization which was formed in 1874 — Headquarters 7 Reg. N.G.C. formed May 1888. The Opera Restaurant is at left. The Chamber of Commerce hat its second quarters in the room above the restaurant. The new U.S. Hotel is in the distance. A cannon is visible on the parapet at left. Streetcars and numerous horse-drawn wagons and carriages move up and down the dirt street or are parked along the curb. Additional legible writing includes: …"real estate”…, …“paints”…, “Castr[…], wholesale, retail grocers”, “Signs”, “harness”…, “Finest California wines”, “The Kline Clothing Co.”, …“Inglewood Property”…, “Grand Opera House”, …“House Jewelry Store”."

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on September 22, 2010 at 1:50 pm

The Orpheum in L.A. is listed in the 1897-98 edition of the Julius Cahn Official Theatrical Guide. As usual, there are no street addresses in this Guide. And there isn’t much info. The Mgr. was Charles Schimpf. Ticket prices ranged from 10 cents to 50 cents, and these low prices indicate that it was not featuring touring plays, musicals, opera, and was, indeed, a vaude house. The seating capacity was listed as 1,500. The proscenium opening was 31 feet square. There were 7 members of the house orchestra.

dgarcia on March 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

Hello all. According to the Pacific Coast Shoman (an exhibitor’s trade paper in the 1930s), the Grand Theatre became the Teatro Mexico at some point in the 1930s. In 1934-1935, it changed hands from the Gore Bros. to Frank Fouce who demolished it in order to draw business to his other Spanish-language theatres.

dgarcia on March 21, 2009 at 9:39 am

WDL: If you are still interested, I have some information on the Spanish-language theatres in LA from the 20s and 30s. I’m writing a book on the subject. Feel free to contact me: .edu

vokoban on September 23, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Great detective work!

vokoban on September 23, 2008 at 4:14 pm

Great detective work!

drb on September 23, 2008 at 3:49 pm

After staring at the photos in the photo links above (at least the ones that still work, so I’m not counting the USC ones) for way too long, I’d say that these two are the oldest:
View link (this is the one dated 1890)

Note the 6-row electric (?) lines strung across the front of the unpaved street, and the derrick-like tower on top of the building to the left,

Then comes these two, which are different version of the same photo: (this is the one that was misdated by the LAPL as 1936)

The poles out front have disappeared, and now there’s a short single streetlamp in front, the awning on the right has been bisected for a small newsstand (?) with a round clock shape, probably painted on the awning, and the building to the right is painted black, and it looks like the entrance is framed with incandescent lights.

Then comes this one:

It’s now just “The Grand,” the single streetlamp has been upgraded to one with multiple globes, the 10¢ sign has been added, as well as more lights around the theater and store entrances, but the building next door is still painted black.

Then comes this one:

The multi-globed streetlights are still there, but the building to the right is no longer black, and has a big “Money to Loan” sign in front with a pointing finger logo. The building to the left now has a squared shape on top instead of its old rounded shape

Then these three are versions of the same photo: (this is the one the LAPL dated 1/31/33)

The building to the right has been “modernized,” stripping off its Victorian ornamentation while keeping its pointing finger logo with its address (?) of 118, and the short multi-globed streetlight is still out front.

Then comes this one, that it says above is from the late 1920s, so the supposedly “1933” one would predate that by a few years.

Notice that the short, multi-globed streetlamps have now been replaced by tall ones with two globes on that block, but not on the adjacent corner on the left, and the marquee has been completely sheared off to make room for a large blade sign.

Then comes this one, of course.

The pawn shop next door is still the same and looks to be doing great business, but the Grand’s brand new blade sign is now gone again, leaving a makeshift marquee. And so goes the Grand.

So from that, I’d wildly guess the “1933” photo is actually 1923, and the “1936” one is closer to the turn of the century.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 20, 2007 at 3:41 am

I was lucky to stumble upon a brief biography of the elder Octavius Morgan, which reveled his connection to Keysor and to the Grand. It turns out that Morgan was quite young when he became Keysor’s partner. He was born in Canterbury in 1850 (no date given, unfortunately) and studied architecture in England (no indication of exactly where) before emigrating to the United States in 1871. He was in Denver two years before moving to Los Angeles, so he must have been 23. Keysor was born in 1835, and thus quite a bit older than his new business partner.

Also, the L.A. Library’s California Index claims that “Keysor” is an erroneous spelling, and his name is actually spelled “Kysor”. They attribute the error to Harold Kirker’s 1960 book, “California’s Architectural Frontier”, published by the Huntington Library, no less. However, the Keysor spelling is used in my source, “An Illustrated History of Los Angeles County, California” which was published in Chicago in 1889.

I suppose the library is most likely to be correct, and the index does have multiple references using Ezra “Kysor” and only two using Ezra “Keysor”, one of which is the correction itself. Still, I’ve seen mistakes in the index before. And the Huntington, after all, is the Huntington. I wish the smart people would agree on these things.

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 19, 2007 at 4:18 am

Joe; Many thanks for your investigative work on the architects Keysor, Morgan, Walls and Clements. I have now corrected the errors that were on various page headings of theatres that each individual & firm designed.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 18, 2007 at 10:25 pm

I made a typo in paragraph two of the comment immediately above where it says that Ezra Keysor retired in 1877. He retired a decade later, of course, in 1887, three years after the Grand was completed, and it was then that John Walls became a partner in the firm.

It has occurred to me that, as this firm was the first and, for quite a while, one of the busiest practices in Los Angeles, and given the fact that they designed the first big theatre in the city, and that 26 years later they designed a major vaudeville house for Pantages, they might have designed other theatres as well in the years between 1884 and 1910. Several large theatres were built during that time, and the architects of only a few have been identified.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on November 17, 2007 at 11:23 pm

After almost three years, I’ve finally unearthed information about the architects who designed the Grand, and the theatre turns out to have been the first of a distinguished line indeed. It is attributable to the firm of Keysor & Morgan, the partnership formed in 1876 between Ezra F. Keysor (architect of the Pico House hotel) and the elder Octavius Morgan, who had been employed by Keysor as a draftsman since 1874. Among their works in Los Angeles were St. Vibiana’s Cathedral, St. Vincent’s College on 6th Street, Sister’s Hospital, and the Nadeau Block.

Upon Keysor’s retirement in 1877, John Walls became a partner. In 1910, under the name Morgan & Walls, the firm designed what is now known as the Arcade Theatre, which was the first Los Angeles house built for Seattle vaudeville impresario Alexander Pantages.

When Morgan’s son, Octavius W. Morgan, was later made a partner, the firm became Morgan, Walls & Morgan, and designed for Oliver Morosco the Broadway house which eventually became the Globe Theatre.

After the death of the elder Morgan, Stiles O. Clements became a partner and, as Morgan, Walls & Clements, the firm went on to design such iconic Los Angeles palaces the Mayan Theatre, the Wiltern Theatre, and the Leimert Theatre. With the unfortunate exception of the Grand itself, all of these theatres still stand.

kencmcintyre on October 28, 2007 at 10:57 pm

That’s part of the ad text for the Century.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 28, 2007 at 10:18 pm

Ken: “Century Vaudeville” in the top ad on that latest scan must refer to the the Gaiety Theatre, but what is the hidden name beginning with the letter “H”?

kencmcintyre on October 28, 2007 at 8:25 pm

Ok, thanks. Here is an ad for Clune’s Grand in 1912:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 28, 2007 at 7:48 pm

The Hotchkiss has a CT page now, as the Capitol Theater.

kencmcintyre on October 28, 2007 at 7:21 pm

Here are some ads from the LA Times in January 1906. The first is for the Grand. The second is for the Hotchkiss, which we were discussing on another page:

kencmcintyre on October 12, 2007 at 11:03 am

Here is part of a column in the LA Times dated 5/2/36:

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on October 7, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Somehow we’ve so far overlooked a fascinating photo of this theatre from the L.A. library collection. It depicts (as it is clearly captioned) the full auditorium as seen from the stage in 1898, during the period when the Grand was the Orpheum. Specifically, it is the matinee audience of Wednesday, August 9, 1898. All apparently survived the performance that afternoon, despite the obvious fact that the house was packed, even the aisles. A modern fire code enforcer would have the fantods over such a sight. My nose is practically having the fantods over the odor which I imagine must have filled the place on that August day.

vokoban on August 24, 2007 at 11:30 am

Did this theater ever have signage that actually said ‘Childs’? Even from 1884 in advertisements it is referred to as the Grand Opera House. I don’t know if the public just called it Childs because of the original builder or if it was actually named that. Here is a graphic I put together showing the positioning of the theater back from the street. I think Joe wanted to see how far back it was a long time ago on this page:

View link

kencmcintyre on August 1, 2007 at 7:19 pm

What’s the going rate for a room at the Melrose these days? I need a good flophouse when I’m downtown.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 1, 2007 at 6:33 pm

The Melrose Hotel, from which the photo was taken, was on the east side of Grand Avenue north of Second Street, so, yes, the view is east with Olive Street in the foreground. That’s undoubtedly this Grand Theatre in the distance. It’s possible to see from this photo that the name is painted on the wall of the auditorium, not on the fly tower (as it appears it might be in this photo from the 1920s, by which time the name had been changed to Teatro Mexico.) That means that the Grand must have extended through the block most of the way to Los Angeles Street, just like the Hippodrome and the Burbank.

kencmcintyre on August 1, 2007 at 5:32 pm

I didn’t see that, but I do now. So the view would be looking east from Bunker Hill. That leads me to believe that it’s probably this Grand over on Main Street, seen from the back.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 1, 2007 at 5:21 pm

Ken, USC’s caption writer missed the most theatrically interesting feature of that photo. The big, dark building at center left is the side wall of the Mason Opera House, the auditorium on the left and the much taller stage house on the right, each with its own roof gable. I think that the white double door near the upper left corner of the building might have been the entrance to the segregated second balcony, which was entered from Hill Street rather than Broadway.