I must confess I’ve never seen a show at the historic Spreckels Theatre. I do occasionally sit at a table in the building’s Grand Lobby. On a quiet Saturday I’ll eat lunch and write while watching pedestrians pass down the Broadway sidewalk, just outside the glass doors.
The mixed-use Spreckels Theater Building was built in 1912 and has been a cool sight in downtown San Diego for over a hundred years. While the upper stories are occupied by numerous small offices, the theatre itself was built as a 1,915-seat auditorium with an ornate Baroque interior. Over the decades, the theatre has also served as a vaudeville house and movie palace. Famous performers at the theatre have included Enrico Caruso, John Barrymore, Al Jolson, Will Rogers, and Abbott and Costello. In 1978, when Balboa Park’s famous Old Globe Theatre was destroyed by fire, the Spreckels was used as a temporary stage for the Globe. Today, as a live presentation venue, the Spreckels Theatre attracts many diverse attractions, including concerts, comedy shows, and dance and theatrical productions.
The six-story building, designed by Harrison Albright with influences from the Chicago School style of architecture, was built by philanthropist John D. Spreckels, a name you might have noted elsewhere on my blog. Spreckels was a wealthy sugar heir and leading San Diego entrepreneur. He wanted the building to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal, much like the Panama-California Exposition, that would be held in Balboa Park in 1915.