All That Jazz

In honor of this weekend's 38th Annual Sacramento Jazz Festival & Jubilee, I decided to drag out some old jazz club ads I found during my microfilm research this last year. The ads are from the late 1940s and 1950s when the West End (now downtown and Capitol Mall) was really hopping.

The West End has a long and interesting history, which I hope to give justice in telling some day. For now, I'll quote an article written by Stephen Magagnini in the Sacramento Bee on June 5, 2005, describing the West End as:
"a multiethnic neighborhood between 10th Street and the Sacramento River that was home to citizens of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Mexican and African descent, as well as nightclubs, card clubs and brothels. The Bee once called it one of the worst slums in the nation."
Here are the places for which I have found ads thus far:

Nitz Jackson's Zanzibar: 530 M Street (Capitol Avenue); at the southwest corner of 6th and Capitol.

This former restaurant/bar was transformed into a club in 1941 and remained open until November 1949.

The Zanzibar had performers over the years like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Roy "Little Jazz" Eldridge, Saunders King, Edith Griffin, Sunny Gonsalves, Hunter Gray Trio and Vincent Theodore "Ted" Thompson's combo, to name a few.

Hovey Moore's MoMo Club: Across the street from the Zanzibar, also at 6th and Capitol. Open until the mid-1950s.

Back in the day many entertainers played at the MoMo, including Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Jay Payton, Stuffy Bryant, Leroy Harold, Harrel Wiley, Lil Allen Robinson, Gene Morris, Emily Foster, The Rhythmettes, Leo Valentine Trio, Opal Mann, Four Sharps and a Natural, and Betty Shepherd.

Al Oxman's Clayton Club: 1126 7th Street, in the former Clayton Hotel which became the Hotel Marshall in the 1940s.

At the Clayton Club headliners such as Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, The Treniers, Gene Bell, Happy Johnson Quintette, and many others performed here.

Redevelopment of the West End began in the late 1950s and early 1960s. These days, most nearby jazz heard playing is in Old Sacramento.

Apparently there were other clubs as well, such as the Cotton Club on 6th Street Between J and K, and the Congo Club at 329 Capitol Avenue -- I'll have to see if I can find any vintage ads from these clubs during my microfilm researching.

Stay cool this weekend, hepcats!

Mystery MCM Mosaic

Sometimes I get lucky and run across something that just feels right. For instance, I found this mid-century modern mosaic during the last 15 minutes it was for sale on eBay back in 2002. It was being sold by someone in San Diego who knew very little about it. All I knew was that my husband and I instantly fell in love with it and bought it for our second anniversary.

It's been quite a trip ever since. Turns out another bidder was writing a book and wanted to include the mosaic in it. We had it professionally photographed for him and sent the slides off to Australia. You can find it on page 68 in the 2003 book Beatsville by Martin McIntosh of Outré Gallery. Check out the gallery and Martin's other cool book Taboo: The Art of Tiki. Highly recommended reading!

Last year I happened to notice an awesome and eerily similar mosaic in the home of my buddy and Sacramento Mid-Century Modern Home Tour co-coordinator, Dane Henas.

The colors and scale were about the same as our mystery mosaic. Dane explained his mosaic was by well-known mid-century artists Jerome and Evelyn Ackerman. In addition to their wonderful website, you can read more about them here and here.

Aha, I thought. A clue! I immediately contacted the Ackermans who thought our untitled mosaic was designed in the late 1950s by their associate, architect Sherrill Broudy. That's where my trail has ended to date.

Yesterday I ran across a great website -- Mid-Centuria -- and to my surprise I saw our mystery mosaic! With kind words acknowledging it came from my Flickr photostream and a plea for further information about the artist.

Sigh. Alas, the mosaic remains a mystery. If anyone out there can positively identify the piece or the artist, we'd be very thankful.

1949: Crest Theatre's Gala Premiere

"When you pass thru this portal
You leave all cares behind you."

The above quote greets all who enter the Crest Theatre -- a historic city landmark and a place of many memories for multiple generations in Sacramento. In this post, I'm going to share some pictures and information regarding the Crest Theatre's Gala Premiere on October 6, 1949.

The Crest Theatre has had a long and complicated history dating back almost 100 years. Here is a brief overview:

Empress Theatre: In 1912, it was first built as the Empress, a vaudeville theater started by Big Tim Sullivan and John W. Considine. They hired Seattle architect Lee DeCamp and the doors opened on January 19, 1913. Alexander Kaiser, father of famous mid-century designer Ray Eames, was the manager.

The Hippodrome: In 1918, the Empress became the Hippodrome, which showed both vaudeville acts and films. In 1927, the Hippodrome became a full-time movie theater. A fire gutted the interior in the 1940s and later, in 1946, the marquee came crashing down without warning, injuring three people and killing Mrs. R.S. Potter who was visiting from Alta in Placer County. Subsequently, Fox West Coast Theatres decided to tear down the Hippodrome to the original brick walls and start anew.

Via the Center for Sacramento History's Eugene Hepting Collection

In 1949, construction began for the Crest Theatre, designed this time by architects Cantin and Cantin from San Francisco.

According to a two-page advertisement placed in the Sacramento Bee on October 5, 1949:
"The Crest Theatre is the consummation of an ideal. In creating it, we of Fox West Coast Theatres sought the ultimate in perfection in Motion Picture Theatre Construction. To achieve this goal, we engaged the most progressive and modern creators in the engineering, architectural and decorative professions. To their knowledge, we added the years of research of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences -- together with the exhibition experience of our own organization. All were carefully welded to bring to reality -- the perfect theatre -- a model of theatre construction for years to come; a theatre embodying the miracles of modern science and comfort, blending beauty and graciousness with practical utility...."

The Crest Theatre's Gala Premiere was held Thursday, October 6, 1949. Five-thousand people attended the festivities, including: several stars of the film That Midnight Kiss; Governor Earl Warren; and Mayor Belle Cooledge. According to the article in the Sacramento Bee the next day, there were "giant searchlights... two floor shows, free orchids, sleek black limousines" and lots of "stiff shirted Fox West Coast executives."

The event was also covered by a MovieTone news reel: "Governor Warren Attends Opening of Crest Theatre" which can be seen via History of Movie Theatres in Sacramento by KVIE.

The Crest Theatre continued to show films until 1979, when it closed, according to the Crest's website, due to "a variety of factors including the decline of the K Street mall, television and multiplexes....  From 1980 to 1986, various people tried to operate the theatre with out much luck." In 1986, a spirited group of people renovated the Crest. Go here for a fascinating, amusing and detailed history, which included a re-opening featuring the film Singin' in the Rain and a visit by Donald O'Connor.

In 1995, the Crest was treated to a $1 million dollar makeover to restore it to its original grandeur. More recently, the Crest's neon marquee was refurbished after 60 years. The sign for the September 21, 2009 re-lighting ceremony proclaimed "10 stories high, 2 miles of neon, 1 fantastic sign!"

The future of the Crest continues to look bright after Bob Emerick purchased it earlier this year with the promise of protecting and preserving it. More here.

If you're like me and can't get enough of the beautiful Crest Theatre, I highly recommend checking out photographs lovingly taken over the years by talented photographer Tom Spaulding.

1961 Custom Residence of James C. Dodd, FAIA For Sale

James C. Dodd was Sacramento's first African-American licensed architect and worked on several key Sacramento landmarks in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In 1982 he was admitted to the AIA (American Institute of Architects) College of Fellows for outstanding contribution to the profession and public service.

Mr. Dodd's personal custom residence is currently for sale. I am not an agent or affiliated with one, but I was honored to take photographs of this home to celebrate Mr. Dodd's memory and document his work. The home has true mid-century details and materials throughout. It needs some patience, vision, and mid-century modern love to make it shine. It is located in the Golf Course Village neighborhood, right below Bing Maloney Golf Course. Here are two historical ads I found while looking at microfilm (1, 2) from 1955 that reflect other modern homes in the neighborhood.

Mr. Dodd graduated from UC Berkeley in 1952. He became a member of AIA in 1957. In addition to working at the firms of Baravetto +Thomas and McCabe, Cox + Liske, he opened his own firm in 1960.

Mr. Dodd's projects (per his self report to the AIA, his obituary, and my research) in Sacramento region included:
- Brutalist-style Crocker Art Museum Herold Wing expansion (1969) (Associate architect with McCabe, Cox & Liske);
- Aerojet Prototype Housing, 1969;
- Sacramento Community/Convention Center;
- Shiloh Baptist Church, 1961;
- Sacramento Capitol City S.D.A. Church;
- science building at UC Davis;
- the redesign of Sacramento High School;
- Rescue Elementary School in El Dorado Hills;
- Jackson Elementary School in El Dorado Hills, 1969;
- Holly Heights in Willits;
- Walnut Village in Ukiah;
- Cypress Ridge (a solar energy project) in Fort Bragg;
- Sunshine Manor in Lakeport;
- Highlands Village in Clearlake Highlands.

Of note, the Center for Sacramento History recognizes the importance of Mr. Dodd's contribution as Sacramento's first African American architect and has an archive record of several drawings as well as a few photographs taken of him at the height of his career.

Mr. Dodd worked tirelessly in the community, including but not limited to: doing public service for Big Brothers; being president of the Central Valley chapter of the American Institute of Architects; giving speeches with Toastmasters and serving as chairman of the Board of Governors of the CA Community Colleges.

I am posting this as a public service to those who are interested and love MCM design and architecture as much as I do. I was happy to document this home for historical purposes and to honor the memory of Sacramento's first African-American architect.