Happy New Year Everyone!
With so much awesomeness in store for the year ahead we thought this would be a great time to bring you our first newsletter. Here you will find Palace news and history, upcoming events and opportunities, as well as other interesting stuff thrown into the mix just for upping your fun.
Thank you to everyone who has supported, in your many amazing ways, to keep this massive project riding high and fast ahead : ) It has been a great first six months!
History of The Palace Theater: Part 1
Here is the first of a series collected from the history of the Palace Theater Oakland. We are pleased to share this unique and pivotal history with you.
The Palace Theater Oakland was built in 1923 by a bawdy large man with a scruffy beard named Allen King. King was known for his seedy theater performances and his community work, giving him a true Jekyll and Hyde appearance through Oakland history. After 10 years in the 23rd Avenue Commercial District (San Antonio Neighborhood), he moved his business to downtown Oakland. He opened the Moulin Rouge where he featured “Girlesque” shows. It was at this time, the theater was picked up by the Golden State/Fox West Coast theater chain who commissioned the famous Reid Brothers architects (Grand Lake, Spreckels Temple of Music) to redesign the Palace Theater Oakland into an impressive example of Spanish Colonial Revival Architecture. This style would eventually be a primary influence of Art Deco.
The Palace Theater Oakland boasts high ceilings, exposed beam arches and hand crafted wrought iron detailing. As well as façade walls that run the length of the auditorium, giving the patron a sense that they are outside in a garden, surrounded by the buildings of a city, whereupon the stage looks like the patio of a great palace. These theaters had special effects that were called atmospherics, featuring star scape ceilings that passed overhead in the “sky”. For the Palace Theater Oakland, the Spanish Colonial architecture was taken from the theme of the 23rd Ave. Historic Commercial District where the theater is one of the primary contributors to this style, and an anchor in the history of the district. The neighborhood has 30 to 40 charming old buildings that are dated as far back as 1889. Most of them were built in the 20’s, all featuring the same Spanish Colonial architecture. The Palace closed as a theater around 1953 and was bought by a church that kept and preserved the building for 60 years. Of the three Spanish Colonial Revival theaters that were designed by the Reid Brothers, The Palace is the only theater that wasn’t demolished and rebuilt.
More to come in upcoming newsletters. For more history visit the Palace website or come out to an event and check it out in person.
Traveling To & From The Palace Theater
The Palace is in a residential neighborhood of working families.
– Minimize parking. Please lessen the impact of parking in front of peoples homes by biking and taking BART. Another option is to carpool with a sober driver, that’s good too. BART is located 10 blocks from the theater.
– Be respectful and courteous to everyone. The Palace lives within a very close knit group of organizations and individuals that are extremely passionate and proactive in the health and safety of this very special neighborhood. Remember, as well, to respect memorial altars and the historic buildings of the district. Do not drink outside in the streets around the theater and please maintain a quiet level when arriving and leaving the venue.
Recently while working in one of the old offices, we opened a small panel door that led to a strange recess under the balcony. While looking about with a small clippy light, we found this amazing time capsule from around 1948-49. It was lying on a thin slate under the floorboards just past the doorway to the small alcove. In the contents we found pictures of families, old receipts, movie passes to the Palace and Parkway, and much more. Also retrieved were publications from the companies who used to make trailers for the movie houses (center of photo above) encouraging owners to “exploit holidays” and buy the most up to date trailers to encourage attendance to, and spending at, the theater. Much of this is on display and more at the Palace. If you would like to check it out, just ask a staff member when you visit.
Welcome to Storefront B: A Restoration Project
In this building there is a story in every room. Multiple stories are layered on top of each other over the last hundred years. This became extremely evident in the restorative process of the retail shops that have been part of the building from the time it was built. As we pulled up the tiles of the floor, to lay new ones, it was like pulling up layers of time from the scene of one play to the next, each part telling some fragment of the theaters story.
The first business to inhabit the storefront was Rosita’s Beauty Salon. It is easy to look around and hear the caterwauling voices of people getting their hair done here. Then it was a shoe repair and sales shop. Judging from the layout you can tell the workshop was upstairs and the marks on the old tile denote where shelves and shopcases had stood. Then in 1944 the storefront was turned into a wartime apartment to house soldiers from the ports close by in Oakland and Alameda.