THE SPRECKELS THEATRE

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BROADWAY BETWEEN 1ST AND 2ND STREETS

Architect Harrison Albright designed the Spreckels Theatre for the city’s premier philanthropist, sugar heir John D. Spreckels, who wanted the very best for his adopted city — and got it.

The Spreckels opened Aug. 23, 1912 — with George Broadhurst’s “Bought and Paid For,” imported directly from Broadway for the occasion — as the first modern commercial playhouse west of the Mississippi. It was — and is — one of the most handsome theaters in America. Its stage was one of the largest: 82 feet by 58 feet. Old-timers tell about the night “Ben Hur” was staged at the Spreckels, with actors and horses rushing out the Second Avenue stage entrance and racing back onstage through the First Avenue entrance.

Spreckels’ deal with managers Jack Dodge and Harry Hayward was simple: The annual audit showed no net profit, nothing was due on the lease. A deficit was acceptable as long as the show quality stayed high.

The Spreckels, with its 1,915 seats to salute the Panama-California Exposition year, joined the 2,000-seat Isis, managed by Dodge and Hayward for Madame Katherine Tingley’s Theosophical Society, and the 1,200-seat Garrick as homes for traveling shows.

[above adapted from an article by Welton Jones in the San Diego Union-Tribune]

 

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