The Adventure Continues… First Theater
There’s plenty of comedy and drama — as well as history — in this episode of California’s Gold, originally aired in January 2000. California’s First Theater in Monterey is part of the Monterey State Historic Park, located along the bay and only blocks from the Old Fisherman’s Wharf. Because this is the original structure, which has undergone several restoration efforts over the decades and currently has structural problems, it’s only open to the public on rare occasions. Sacramento’s Eagle Theater, by contrast, is a reconstruction of the original building on Front Street which was washed away in the devastating flood of January 1850. It’s now overseen by the California State Railroad Museum and is open to museum visitors, as well as providing an event venue and field trip destination for Sacramento-area school children learning about California history.
On this adventure, Huell goes in search of California’s “First Theater.” As usual, nothing is simple in California because there are actually two first theaters. From Monterey to Sacramento we uncover California’s theater history.
Huell starts his search in Monterey at “California’s First Theater”. An English sailor by the name of Jack Swan completed his saloon/boarding house in 1847 and very quickly US soldiers stationed in Monterey were putting on shows in his building. The building went through many incarnations over the years until 1937 when it was reopened as a theater. The Troupers of the Gold Coast (the oldest continually performing theatrical company in the world) have been entertaining audiences ever since. Huell gets a tour and sees a performance in California’s first first theater.
Next, Huell is off to Sacramento to California’s second first theater, the Eagle Theater. Mr. Zadock Hubbard and Mr. Gates Brown, owners of the Round Tent Saloon located on J Street near the corner of Front Street, financed the construction of the Eagle Theater in 1849, to provide entertainment for the hordes of miners and emigrants coming to Sacramento during the Gold Rush. Construction began in July and the building was completed by September 1849.
Huell gets a wonderful tour and again we get to see a performance on a very historic stage.