Golden Gate Theater
Golden Gate Theater is a Spanish Baroque Revival Churrigueresque-style
movie palace built in 1927 on Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles,
California. In 1982, it was listed on the National Register of
Historic Places. The theater closed in 1986; the retail building built
around it was damaged in the
1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake
1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake and
demolished in 1992. The remaining theater building was left vacant for
more than 20 years as preservationists fought with owners and
developers over the future of the building. It was finally
converted into a drugstore and reopened in 2012.
1 Theater building
2 Closure and earthquake damage
3 Preservation battles
4 See also
6 External links
The theater seated nearly 1,500 people and was located at one of the
major intersections on the east side of Los Angeles, at the corner of
Whittier and Atlantic Boulevards. The theater was built by Peter
Snyder, known as the "Father of the East Side," and designed by
architects William and Clifford A. Balch, creators of the El Rey
Wilshire Boulevard and the
Pomona Fox Theater
Pomona Fox Theater in Pomona,
California. It was designed in the ornate
and the entrance replicated the portal of Spain's University of
Salamanca. When plans for the theater were announced in 1927, the
Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times reported:
"This week will mark the beginning of building operations on the
theater project on Whittier Boulevard in Golden Gate Square. The
theater proper will seat about 1500 persons, it is declared and will
contain thirteen stores. There will also be several apartment units.
It is planned as a legitimate playhouse, but will be equipped for
motion pictures as well."
The theater was originally located in the courtyard of the L-shaped
Vega Building, a retail structure that wrapped around the theater.
The Vega Building was known for its four-story octagon tower.
Los Angeles County records describing the basis for the landmark
designation describe the complex as one with "a sense of time and
place. The majority of its structural features, including its
conformation, detailing and decorative elements, have been unaltered.
As a result, the building has clearly retained a sense of
architectural integrity and original design."
Closure and earthquake damage
Golden Gate Theater
Golden Gate Theater in 1980 with the Vega Building intact
The theater stopped showing movies in 1986, and in 1987 the Vega
Building was damaged in the Whittier Narrows earthquake. From
1986-1988, a non-denominational Christian church named Praise Chapel
Christian Fellowship occupied the building and held regular services
with over 1,000 people. In 1987 the pastors, Mike and Donna Neville
were forced to move their church because, according to the owner, the
building was condemned following the Whittier earthquake. The Vega
Building was demolished in 1992 after officials determined it to be a
hazard. The remaining theater building was left sitting vacant in
the middle of an otherwise empty lot. One writer notes that the
remaining shell "only hints at what this theater was like in its
The property has been vacant and the subject of attempted demolitions
for many years. When the Whittier earthquake damaged the Vega
Building, demolition efforts accelerated. County inspectors declared
the building unsafe for occupancy, and businesses operating in the
building, including a jewelry store, a shoe repair shop, and a bowling
alley, were evicted.
In 1988, demolition commenced before officials led by then County
Supervisor Ed Edelman halted the work with a stop-work order.
Demolition crews had already begun to dismantle the walls when
Edelman, then Los Angeles City Councilwoman Gloria Molina, sheriff's
deputies and more than 50 concerned community members showed up at the
site to ensure the demolition work was halted. Edelman blamed a
"foul-up" in the Public Works Department for issuing the demolition
permit and assured the gathered crowd that heads were going to roll
and that he would "try and stop this damn demolition before it
In 1992, the Vega Building was razed, and in 1994, the family that had
owned the property for 20 years sought to have the building removed
National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places to clear the way for
potential demolition of the theater. The Mothers of East Los
Angeles and the
Los Angeles Conservancy
Los Angeles Conservancy fought the demolition plans.
The Conservancy noted that the theatre was one of fewer than two dozen
buildings in Los Angeles in the Spanish
Churrigueresque style. In
August 1994, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, on a motion
by Supervisor Gloria Molina, designated the theatre as a "historical
resource." The State Historical Resources Commission also rejected
the owner's request to remove the theatre from the National Register
of Historic Places.
In 2003, the property was acquired by M&A Gabaee, an affiliate of
the Charles Co. Rumors spread that the new owner planned to convert
the property into a
Walgreens Drug Store. A representative of the
owner told the Los Angeles Times: "We're in negotiations so everything
is preliminary. We plan to keep the structure. The building is
absolutely gorgeous. We want to maintain that but we also want to find
what's going to work. We're looking forward to rejuvenating it."
Preservationists expressed concerns that the new plans would preserve
the outer shell of the building but gut or significantly alter the
building's interior. In particular, concerns were raised that the
theatre's soaring interior and proscenium arch would be replaced with
a dropped ceiling. The founder of the East Los Angeles Center for
the Performing Arts proposed converting the theatre into a performing
arts venue: "It's an amazing theater. We were trying to get support to
renovate and turn it into a performing arts venue. There's a drugstore
on every corner here. I'd love to see the developer team up with us to
As of 2008, the proposed conversion of the theatre was still the
subject of ongoing preservation efforts by the Los Angeles
Conservancy. The Conservancy stated that it sought to preserve
historic interior features, including the proscenium, lobby,
clamshell-shaped concession stand, and mezzanine level, while
"encouraging the adaptive reuse of this long-vacant historic
On May 25, 2010, the
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved
the conversion of the theater into a 24-hour drug store. It opened as
a CVS on August 19, 2012.
List of Registered Historic Places in Los Angeles
National Park Service
National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information
System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park
^ Future of 1927-era East L.A. theater in question, May 14, 2009
^ a b "Current Preservation Issues". Los Angeles Conservancy. March
2008. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09.
^ a b c d e f Michael T. Jarvis (2003-08-31). "Metropolis / Snapshots
from the Center of the Universe; Cut to Whittier Boulevard; An
Eastside Classic Is Back in Development". Los Angeles Times.
^ a b c d e Mary Anne Perez (1994-08-14). "EAST LOS ANGELES Golden
Gate Theater Is Safe-for Now". Los Angeles Times.
^ "Three Millions Go To Buildings: Height Limit Loft Among Projects
Announced; Whittier Boulevard Will Get New Theater". Los Angeles
^ a b c d e Penelope McMillan (1988-03-17). "Curtain Call for a
Landmark Theater". Los Angeles Times. "Demolition crews had
swept onto the site at the corner of Whittier and Atlantic boulevards
Tuesday and Wednesday, and began to dismantle some walls. But they
were halted by a stop-work order obtained from the county Public Works
Department through the efforts of Supervisor Ed Edelman."
^ William Gabel. "Spotlight from the Road: Golden Gate Theater, East
Los Angeles". Cinema Treasures.
^ "Other Grand Theater Southern California". Roadside Peek.
^ "EAST LOS ANGELES Panel Backs Move to Preserve Theater". Los Angeles
More L.A. Theatres of Interest
Golden Gate Theater
Golden Gate Theater from Los Angeles Public Library
National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places in California
Los Angeles County
San Luis Obispo
Lists by city
California Historical Landmarks
National Historic Landmarks
National Natural Landmarks
Keeper of the Register
History of the National Register of Historic Places