Saturday, September 24, 2011

Civic Auditorium, 307 Church St., Santa Cruz, CA

Dedicated in 1940 in downtown Santa Cruz, the Civic Auditorium is classic California Art Deco. Arched granite pillars cover the brick entryway and warm pastel colors fill the hallways to create an inviting, slightly deco.
The initial justification for spending $276,852 on the property and the building of the Civic Auditorium and the firehouse next door was that Santa Cruz was a convention city and needed an auditorium. Way back in 1938, the Auditorium Committee thought it was a good idea to build it right across the street from City Hall.
Skipping ahead, Ralph Nader also thought it was a good idea to have it there, and in his talk at the Civic, he stated, "You Santa Cruzans probably don't realize how rare it is to have an auditorium close to the city hall." He went on to tell of the majority of cities where meeting spaces near city halls are rare, small and unobtainable.
Of the look of the building, H.R. Judah, manager of the Civic Auditorium in 1940, said, "The new building is of the mission style in architecture with a modern touch and an arrangement of open porches on the corners and sides."
The Civic was never really completed. The original plans show a floor of offices above the entrance. They also show a sort of turret similar to one on the new Cooper House on the northeast corner--where the Civic's sign with coming attractions is now.

Mayor Hinkle opened the Civic on Oct. 28, 1940, and hoped the structure would "escape the tragedies of nature." Except for some leaks after the 1989 earthquake, it's done pretty well. The Civic also has unusually thick concrete walls, which have helped a lot. The Sentinel's editorial of March 28, 1940, which was placed in a time capsule at the Civic, worried about Adolf Hitler's future plans and wondered if the United States would "remain aloof from Europe's war." Looking back on that last half century, the Sentinel was right to worry. Besides that, for a while no one now knew where the time capsule was placed. Now the Civic has blueprints showing the exact location (behind the plaque on the front of the building).

According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, even Lucille Ball, before the days of "I Love Lucy," appeared at the Auditorium on December 17,1947, starring in the play "Dream Girls."
Lucy liked a beer too!

Something big and bad happened June 2, 1956, often referred to as "the rock & roll incident." I don't know what it was, although it received nationwide attention. According to one report, 200 teenagers were dispersed after several couples were observed engaging in "obscene and suggestive" dancing. A new formal behavior policy was still being developed three weeks later.

In 1962, Knute Maddock got Army surplus telephones and installed them so people backstage could talk to the folks in the sound booth up and in the back of the auditorium.

Also in 1962 Eleanor Roosevelt gave a speech at the auditorium.

In 1981 G. Gordon Liddy debated Timothy Leary here.

Bob Marley performed here in July 1978.

Seating capacity 2000.

Jerry performed here on


  1. It seems that Jerry performed here with Old And In The Way in October 1973, as well, but we are trying to nail down the details.

    This is a truly wonderful venue (conveniently located in Paradise itself). I saw The Tubes and REM here, and my wife saw Jackson Browne.

  2. I was lucky enough to see Bob Marley there twice in one night! Early and late shows, allowing everyone from early show in for free!