Alcazar Theatre

San Francisco, CA

There have actually been three Alcazar Theatres in San Francisco's history:

  • Alcazar Theatre (1885), O'Farrell Street in San Francisco; destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906:

    The first Alcazar Theatre was at 116 O'Farrell Street, between Stockton and Powell, in San Francisco, California. Opened in 1885, the structure served as a lecture and music hall, but soon housed a popular resident stock company, which included Maude Adams, under the management of the younger brother of David Belasco, Fred Belasco. It was destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire.

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  • Alcazar Theatre (1911), O'Farrell Street in San Francisco; demolished in 1961

    The second Alcazar Theatre was a 1,145 seat theatre located at 260 O'Farrell Street, San Francisco, California. It was built in 1911 by architects Cunningham and Politeo, replacing the previous Alcazar Theatre one block to the east, which was destroyed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake fire. This venue soon became one of San Francisco's leading legitimate theatres offering a wide range of productions, and like its predecessor, also housed a popular resident stock company.

    With the advent of the sound film, and the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Alcazar became a secondary low-price movie theater, and in 1936 and 1937, housed the Federal Theatre Project of the Works Progress Administration. In 1945, the theatre was used by the United Nations Peace Conference for some of its meetings, and afterwards reopened as the United Nations Theatre.

    The building was renovated once again in 1952, renamed the Alcazar Theatre and again devoted to legitimate stage productions. The theatre was closed on December 31, 1961, and was torn down. The Handlery Motor Hotel was soon built on its former site.

    Site c.1971

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  • Alcazar Theatre, Geary Street, was built in 1917 as a Shriner's Temple:

    The only existing Alcazar Theatre is a 511-seat theatre located at 650 Geary Street, San Francisco, California. The venue is host to many touring productions of Broadway and Off Broadway plays, as well as variety, cabaret, comedians, and other theatrical events of varying quality.

    Built in 1917 , the building was designed in Exotic Revival style, looking much like an Islamic temple, by architect T. Patterson Ross. After the Alcazar Theatre at 260 O'Farrell Street closed on December 31, 1961 and then demolished, this former temple on Geary Street became a legitimate theatre in 1976 and took on the name Alcazar.

    The structure was gutted in 1982, despite community efforts to save it, but reopened in 1993. Standing just west of Union Square, in the heart of the theatre district, the Alcazar has been renovated combining state of the art facilities with the architectural style of the past.

    The Alcazar Theatre was designated San Francisco Historical Landmark 195 in 1989. In 1976, the Alcazar was awarded the highest rating for architectural significance in a survey of city buildings, but fell into disuse in 1986. By 1990, the terra cotta facade was severely deteriorated due to water intrusion in the walls from the roof and broken windows. First Interstate Bank retained WJE to evaluate the facade for seismic stability and architectural condition, and to design restoration repairs and seismic strengthening:

    San Francisco Landmark #195 - Alcazar Theater
    650 Geary Street Between Jones and Leavenworth
    Built 1917

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    This eclectic Moorish/Byzantine building, commissioned by the Shriners as the Islam Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of Mystic Shrine, was designed by architect Thomas Patterson Ross. The fašade, with Byzantine arches and filigree lattice work, is primarily of ornate polychrome terra cotta with a granite water table. The June 1917 edition of Architect and Engineer noted that the temple was "an adaptation from Alhambra, a building that stands as the highest mark of Arabian art and civilization." The Islam Temple was used for Shriner meetings and ceremonies from 1918 to 1970. Later it functioned as a small theater in the tradition of the original Alcazar Theater which was located on O'Farrell Street. (The original Alcazar opened in 1885, was destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, was rebuilt, and was razed for a parking lot in 1963.) (Source: San Francisco Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board Final Case Report 17 May 1989)

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    Programs available from this theatre:

  • Sweet Kitty Bellairs (1909)

  • Merely Mary Ann (1910)

  • The High Cost of Loving (1917)


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