Terrazzo at State Theatre
Normally we recognize architecture as an embodiment of our history and culture. But there are times when objects do that as well. It could be a lamp post, neon sign, or even an old curb or sidewalk. The sidewalk at 4730 El Cajon Boulevard has a terrazzo surface that was once the entrance to the State Theatre, designed by renowned architect S. Charles Lee. This terrazzo is a beautiful surprise for pedestrians to come upon. It is an oasis of color and design interrupting the expectation of ordinary gray sidewalk. Besides serving as art in public, it is an important thread in the fabric of El Cajon Boulevard History.
It helps remind us of the time when The Boulevard was San Diego's preeminent automobile oriented commercial zone. Of a time when neighborhood movie theatres were as common as the coffee shop and dime store.
In 1940 when the State Theatre was built it was San Diego's state-of-the-art neighborhood movie theatre. It boasted a 125 foot spire which was the tallest in San Diego in its day. The spire was topped by a flashing multicolored beacon that could be seen for 5 miles. It was the first building interior completely illuminated by black light. The marquee was the largest in Southern California and used 946 letters in 64,050 square feet of neon illuminated area. It was touted as the most original architecture ever attempted outside a World's Fair.
The State Theatre was demolished in 1987. And now 23 years later the last surviving remnant of the State Theatre, its lovely colorful terrazzo, is now slated for demolition for construction of a new bus stop. Compared to the task of saving large structures like the California Theatre or Ryan Aeronautical, would it be all that difficult for engineers and designers to accommodate saving a modest but beautiful part of El Cajon Boulevard's historic character?
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