Thursday, May 28, 2015

Historic Casino on Catalina Island

Thank you to everyone who read my crazy post about my everyday life here at Lilly My Cat.  Today I'm going to share rest of the story about the Casino in Avalon.  If you missed the first part of my trip to Avalon, you can read about it here.

We have to go back in time to the late 1920's.  Willam Wrigley, Jr*., had originally built a dance hall on the site where the Casino is located.  It was called Sugarloaf Casino.  As the population of the island grew, this building became too small.  Mr. Wrigley along with David Renton (a well known builder and business executive at the time) had the Casino built.  It was designed by Sumner Spalding and Walter Weber in the Art Deco style.
*The same Wrigley who made chewing gum*

Here a photo of the beautiful Casino building.  It overlooks Avalon Bay.....

The Casino has two main floors; a working movie theatre and a top floor grand ballroom.  You enter the building from the main floor which houses the movie theatre.  The lobby is fully carpeted (a luxury at the time of building).  The walnut paneling in the lobby today has an estimated value of $4 million dollars! 

Here is one of the aisle entrances to the movie theatre.  I love the Art Deco styling on this sign...

The movie theatre was built not only to accommodate silent films but also talkies.  Here's a photo of the original 1929 Page Pipe Organ.  The tour guide told us that four of these were made at the time and now there are only two in existence and this one still works..... 

This is the interior of the movie theatre.  The acoustics are amazing.  The murals on the walls are hand painted by John Gabriel Beckman,  the same artist who painted Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.  There is pure gold leaf and silver used in the design.

I was fortunate to go on a "Behind the Scenes" tour.  This is a photo of the stage lighting panel located in the projector room......

They still have the original movie projectors in the theatre and they still are in working order!  Here's a photo of one of them....

I love this photo of this counter in the projector room.  It looks as though time has stood still....

Here is one more photo from the projector room.  Notice the antique phone on the wall.....

The casino on Catalina Island was a playground for Hollywood's elite during the Casino's heyday.  Those who gathered there included Cecil B. DeMille, Louis B. Mayer, and Samuel Goldwin who many times held the premier of their films there.  Mr. Wrigley had two steamships built; the SS Avalon and SS Catalina.  These tourist ships brought passengers to Avalon from the 1920's to the 1950's. (I have to add a little note about my home state of Washington.    Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry system in the USA and fourth largest in the world.  If this was Washington state, I'm sure Avalon would be service by the state ferry system).

To access the grand ballroom which is on top of the theatre, there are not stairs but instead a ramp that slowly rises as you walk up.  It's really an ingenious idea especially if there are large crowds of people.  In the photo above, you can see the bar area of the ballroom...

It's a circular ballroom with the stage to the left in this picture.  The ballroom can hold 1,500 people.  In it's heyday, all the famous big bands played there.  There's a raised area around the perimeter which has tables and chairs....

This is the beautiful light fixture in the center of the room made by Tiffany and Co.  It's quite exquisite in it's Art Deco design....

Outside the doors of the grand ballroom you will find the balcony or "romance promenade" with it's splendid view of Avalon harbor....

Can't you just imagine the elegant ladies in their long ball gowns walking this promenade?

The architecture is quite amazing to see.....

Here's are a few more facts that you might find interesting:

1.  The word "casino" in the Italian language means "gathering place".  This is not a gambling casino.
2.  This building was the first of it's kind in being a circular design.
3.  The height of the casino is equivalent to a 12 story building.
4.  The grand ballroom measures 20,000 square feet!  (it's huge)
5.  The designers of NYC's famed Radio City Music Hall came to Avalon to study the perfect acoutics in the Casino.

Santa Catalina Island is a very unique place.  In 1972 the Wrigley family established the Catalina Island Conservancy, a non-profit organization, to protect and conserve the island.  In 1975 the Wrigley and Offield famlies deeded over 42,000 acres over to the conservancy.  Thus, most of the land on the island is owned by the conservancy.  There are a few parcels that are privately owned.

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into history.  Living in south Orange County, where everything is relatively new, it's hard to find history around the corner.  I truly enjoyed my time in Avalon and I hope you will too if you ever visit one day.  

My best to each of you,


Linking to the following parties:
Five on Friday.....
What to do Weekends.... 


  1. What a great place to visit with so much history. Maybe one day....
    Have a great weekend.

  2. A fascinating post. Thank-you so much for sharing. It looks like a beautiful place and it's so good when those who have land (and money) leave it for the rest of us plebs to enjoy! Judy.

  3. What a fascinating and beautiful place. Like you I can just imagine the swish of long silk dresses along that promenade:)

  4. Very interesting. I bet the building has seen a lot over the years and could tell many stories. I'm glad you've had such a good anniversary trip. :-)

  5. What a place! I live that Tiffany light fixture. And that circular ball room - gorgeous!

  6. Wow! Pretty darn amazing that's for sure. Thanks for sharing! Tammy

  7. It looks very grand. If walls could talk I expect there would be some amazing tales told. X

  8. A really interesting place and five fascinating facts! Thank you for joining in and for taking us along! I hope that you have a great weekend! xx

  9. Gosh they are lovely pictures, you can just imagine some of the things that must have happened in those lovely old rooms. Thank you for sharing and have a lovely weekend xx

  10. What a fascinating place, it sounds like a great trip. Have a lovely weekend. :)

  11. I love the Art Deco architecture and the beautiful murals painted by that talented, famous artist. The movie theatre tour must have been very interesting as one can see from the photos. You can imagine what it was like in its heyday.

  12. What an interesting post, thank you for sharing

  13. How fascinating! Thank you for taking us on that tour. The Casino really is a treasure!

  14. Try SALT and Peppers!!! Great inexpensive place with a very friendly staff and good food! We waited until our 3rd day and wished we had discovered this place right away! bovegas


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