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Spreckels Theater Building


Spreckels Theater Neon


The Spreckels Theater Building was built in San Diego, California in 1912. It was touted as “the first modern commercial playhouse west of the Mississippi.”  It has been in continuous operation since its opening, with a few brief intervals for refurbishing.


Architect Harrison Albright designed the Spreckels Theater for the city’s premier philanthropist, sugar heir John D. Spreckels. The building, which opened on August 23, 1912, was constructed to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. It is constructed of reinforced concrete, concrete panels and terra cotta. The six-story building has a marquee over the main entrance. The theater is a 1,915-seat auditorium with an ornate Baroque interior. The auditorium is open with no pillars or columns to obstruct sightlines. The number of seats was chosen to correspond with the Panama-California Exposition year (1915). The stage is 82 feet x 58 feet, and was one of the largest stages ever constructed. Even by today’s standards, the theater meets most criteria to be considered state-of-the-art.

San Diego Historical Society

The theater originally presented live theatrical productions. Notable performers at the Spreckels included Enrico CarusoJohn BarrymoreAl JolsonWill Rogers, and Abbott and Costello.

In 1931, it was converted into a first-run motion picture house by its then-owner Louis B. Metzger.

In 1976, owner/operator Jacquelyn Littlefield (Metzger’s daughter) returned it to a live theater format, bringing touring Broadway shows to San Diego in cooperation with the Nederlander Organization.

When fire destroyed San Diego’s Old Globe Theatre in 1978, the Spreckels hosted the Globe’s 1978-79 season.


San Diego’s Spreckels Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It continues to operate as a theater, as well as offer office space in the central downtown area of the city. It is located at 121 Broadway, San Diego, CA 92101.

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