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Palo Alto Historic Buildings Inventory

223 University Avenue

inventory photo Stanford Theater
Inventory photo Photo taken May 2, 2006

 

The following is from the Historic Buildings Inventory as revised in 1978 / 1985:

Physical appearance:   The very narrow entrance provides access to the theater proper in the interior of the block—a standard arrangement for preserving profitable street-front commercial space. As was common for theaters of the 'twenties, this is a mixture of wide-ranging decorative motifs. Some alterations have occurred at the street level.

Note: Since the date of the Inventory, this theater has been extensively and thoughtfully restored by David Packard.

Significance:  The theater is an inventive example of its kind, now rapidly disappearing. On the site occupied in the first decade of the [20th] century by shops, an early motion picture house, the Marquee Theater, was placed by Henry C. Schmidt in 1914 (see also 543 Emerson Street.)

Ten years later, Ellis P. Arkush, with associates F. A. La Suer and E. A. Karelsen, bought the Marquee and changed its name to Stanford Theater, and the, in its rebuilt form, the New Stanford Theater. it was one of a group of Peninsula motion picture theaters which Arkush had acquired and modernized to suit the glamorous image then being prompted by the major distributors of Hollywood films.

The New Stanford boasted an eye-catching marquee, superficially sumptuous interior lobby and decorations, and a fine theater organ. For nearly a half-century it was one of the city's two "first run" film theaters. Then as audiences declined in the last quarter-century, it too faltered to intermittent use for special events and touring performances of musical and theatrical groups, as well as motion pictures.

 

decoration doors
marquee doors
HRB photo map
Historic Resources Board photo ca. 1985 Location map

This house was built in 1925 and is a Category 3 on the Historic Buildings Inventory. The architect was Weeks and Day of San Francisco, and the builder was Barrett & Hilp, also of San Francisco [and developer of much-needed post-war housing in the 1940s and 50s]. Ornamentation was from the Robert E. Powers Studio. In 1914, E. A. Hettinger was hired by the Boardman Estate of Oakland as the contractor for the Marquee Theater. The property measures 25 by 224 feet.

Sources: Palo Alto Times:  10/29/1914, 8/1/1924/, 6/8/1925, 12/19/1931; Palo Alto Historical Assocaition file, Stanford Theater.

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