Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mystery History -- Solved

JM in Pasadena wins again but never contacted me after he/she won the previous contest, so I'm guessing that JM won't contact me this time, either (surprise me, JM, please!)

In the photo above they're breaking ground for the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in 1931 with a steam shovel. How times have changed.

For those who guessed the post office, construction on that building began in 1914 and it opened for business in 1915, several years before the autos in the photo were on the Ford assembly line! The perspective of the photo is a bit deceiving -- we're actually on the south side of Green Street looking north at a long-gone building.

Of course, we don't think about the Pasadena Civic Auditorium from the view looking north; we know it from the view looking south.
The 3,000-seat Pasadena Civic Auditorium, designed by Cyril Bennett and George Edwin Bergstrom of the architectural firm Bennett and Haskell, is owned by the City of Pasadena and listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Pasadena Civic Center District.


It opened for business on Feb. 15, 1932, during the lowest ebb of the Great Depression. It was dedicated "to the citizens of Pasadena, whose efforts and sacrifices have made the erection of this beautiful and useful building possible."

Grand opening events were free and open to the public.

I love this photo of the 1933 Rose Queen Dorothy Edwards being crowned by a Prince Charming-type onstage at the Civic Auditorium.

For 25 years from 1977 to 2001, the Emmy Awards were hosted at the Civic; and until this year, when American Idol contestants came to "Hollywood" for the first week of competitions and eliminations, they were actually at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

In my brief 18 years in Pasadena, I've seen many, many performances including several by the Pasadena Symphony plus musicals such as "Chicago" and "South Pacific," speakers the likes of Bill Cosby and Anderson Cooper, and...


...my favorite moment ever: the first rehearsal (closed to the public and unpublicized) of José Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti with the L.A. Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta a few days before the Three Tenors concert in 1994 due to the fact that Dodger Stadium wasn't ready for them yet. There were only about 30 of us in the audience that day. (Thank you, Rick Barr!)


The Civic is still going strong with a full calendar of speakers, concerts, awards shows and other productions.

And, of course, now it's surrounded by the stunning, newly expanded Pasadena Convention Center.

A note about the architects: Cyril Bennett was educated in Pasadena and trained vocationally in the offices of Henry and Charles Greene and Sylvanus Marston. He began his own architectural firm in Pasadena in 1914 and gained notoriety for his designs of residential bungalows and commercial buildings as well as his design of the Raymond Theater. George Edwin Bergstrom graduated from Yale in 1896 and began his architectural career in New York City before setting up shop in Los Angeles and eventually joining the Pasadena firm. He was in his 60s when he was the chief architect for this little building.

If JM doesn't contact me, nobody wins because there wasn't a second person who guessed correctly. Bummer.

Many thanks to Pasadena Public Library, Pasadena Civic Auditorium and Tournament of Roses Association for use of the photos.

5 comments:

altadenahiker said...

Excellent post! I learned so much and it's not even 8:30.

Margaret said...

It is an excellent post. But I do thing I deserve runner up.

Anonymous said...

I love this history class! Great post! PS I saw Jethro Tull at the Civic in 1977! A world apart from American Idol!

pasadenapio said...

Margaret, sorry but no cigar. You guessed "construction begins on the original civic center."

The Civic Center is the entire area that spans from Pasadena Public Library to the north to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium and convention center complex to the south, with the post office, city hall, police building, courthouse, etc., in between.

Ground was broken for the post office, library and city hall long before it was broken for the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

However, as a special token of my esteem, and in recognition of your excellent Goddess series on your blog, I shall give you a very special pat on the back next time I see you!

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