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San Gabriel Landmark Recovering From Quake : Civic Auditorium Slated to Reopen

December 03, 1987|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

SAN GABRIEL — The historic San Gabriel Civic Auditorium, damaged in the Oct. 1 earthquake, is scheduled to reopen Feb. 12 after interior repairs are completed.

Repairs to the ceiling began this week, said auditorium manager Bill Shaw, and are expected to be finished in time for the San Gabriel Valley Civic Light Opera's production of "42nd Street," which will run Feb. 12 to 28.

The 1,500-seat theater suffered only minimal structural damage, City Manager Bob Clute said, most of it confined to two bell towers and the facade.

The city, which owns the 60-year-old facility, will select an engineering firm Dec. 15 to rebuild the towers and facade, said Clute. He said the entire restoration, which will cost between $600,00 and $700,000, should be completed by early summer.

The city has been paying for the work from its reserve fund, but the federal government has agreed to fund 75% of all the restoration costs, Clute said.

"There has been an outpouring of interest from people who have donated money toward restoration," Shaw said. "The patrons' support group for the Civic Light Opera has raised $14,000, mostly in small contributions. So I am encouraged."

The two bell towers were weakened in the initial shock, and one fell down during the aftershock Oct. 4. The other was torn down later.

A new facade will be built and the bell towers reconstructed.

"We have taken off 180 tons of brick (from the facade)," Clute said. "The replica facade will be constructed of a lightweight steel framework covered with stucco. It will look the same, but there will not be the heavy weight of the brick."

Shaw expressed optimism about the project, saying: "We could have lost the entire building."

The auditorium was built in 1927 specifically for one production, "The Mission Play," a five-hour drama about the life of Father Junipero Serra that ran for several years, Shaw said. Serra founded a number of missions in California, including San Gabriel Mission, which is next door to the auditorium.

In the 1930s, the auditorium became a movie theater, and in 1949 it was bought by the city and restored. The city rents it to groups such as the local Civic Light Opera.

Shaw said that among the major events that had to be canceled because of the damage were a number of Christmas productions, including the weeklong "Singing Christmas Tree" staged annually by Bethany Church of Alhambra. The Pasadena Dance Theater's "Nutcracker Ballet" has been moved to Pasadena City College. The Civic Light Opera's production of "Hello, Dolly," scheduled to open eight days after the earthquake, will be staged in July.

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