Garrick Theater

Empress Theatre ~ c. 1911

Strand Theatre ~ c. 1920

Sixth and B Streets, San Diego 

In 1907 Col. D. C. Collier purchased the old Unity Hall on the west side of Sixth between B and C, moved it to Sixth and B streets, and remodeled it into the Garrick Theater. The Garrick opened on Friday, October 18, 1907. Its designer was Henry Lord Gay of San Francisco; its builders were Hughes and Keasley of Los Angeles. Though not from San Diego, they gave this city one of its best designed theatres.

The reviewer of the opening performance gave little space to the production, but spoke glowingly of the house. He had nothing but praise for its handsome interior, the subdued colors, and comfortable opera chairs. His most glowing terms were reserved for two elements that were, in his opinion, great improvements over its predecessors: the fine acoustics and exceptionally good sight lines.

The new Garrick immediately became the choice of big touring shows. Before October ended, DeLacour presented George M. Cohan’s “Little Johnny Jones” (company of 70 but no Cohan); the Milan Opera Company with “Rigoletto,” “La Boheme,” “Faust” and “Il Trovatore”; and the return of Johanna Gadski.

For four years the Garrick thrived as the home of opera, legitimate, and musical comedy companies. Its decline began with the building of the Savoy. In 1911, the name was changed to the Empress, but the decline in the-quality of its productions continued. In time, the name was again changed to The Strand. Finally, manager Charles Delacour surrendered to the inevitable, and the pretty little theatre became a second-class movie house.

[excerpt in part from a Thesis Presented to the Faculty of San Diego State College by Morgan Jackson Lane, June 1969, entitled “Commercial Theatre in San Diego with Special Emphasis 1892-1917”; and commentary by Welton Jones, from the San Diego Union-Tribune]

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