AKA: Fox West Coast Theatres, Fox Theater, San Diego, CA; San Diego Symphony-Copley Symphony Hall, San Diego, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Heinsbergen Decorating Company, Interior Designers (firm); Weeks and Day, Architects (firm); William Peyton Day (structural engineer); Anthony T. Heinsbergen (interior designer); Antoon B. Heinsbergen (interior designer/muralist); Charles Peter Weeks (architect)

Dates: constructed 1928-1929, demolished 1984

4 stories, total floor area: 75,000 sq. ft.

710 B Street
San Diego, CA 92101

OpenStreetMap (new tab)
Google Map (new tab)
click to view google map
Google Streetview (new tab)
click to view google map

Fox West Coast Theatres operated this theatre originally. The Gildred Brothers, Philip L., Sr., (1889-1974) and Theodore (1901-1967), were the developers responsible for constructing themixed-use Fox Building and the theatre, and they engaged the prolific Bay Area architects Weeks and Day to design this giant movie palace. Their initial cost was approximately $2 million. Kyle E. Ciani and Cynthia Malinick writing in the Journal of San Diego History in 2000 noted: "Projects by the Gildred brothers, Philip L., Sr. and Theodore, demonstrated perhaps the greatest commitment to the leisure economy; they developed a full block that encompassed A, B, Seventh and Eighth streets, building a ten-floor garage, a four-story department store, and the Fox Theatre (the third largest theatre on the Pacific Coast at the time)." (See Kyle E. Ciani and Cynthia Malinick, Journal of San Diego History, "From Spanish Romance and Neon Confidence and Demolition Fear,"Accessed 06/14/2012.) William Templeton Johnson served as the designer of the office building, collaborating with Weeks and Day, responsible for the theatre's interior. According to the SDSO's web site: "...The theatre was designed jointly by the architect W. Templeton Johnson, and William Day of the designer firm Weeks and Day. The theatre is believed to be the last surviving example of designer William Day's creative work with this decor. Accuracy insists, however, that much of the interior decoration was the work of William Fox’s favorite designer, Mrs. Fox, whose tastes ran to the somewhat spectacular, often combining facets of various periods and geographies. Over the years, the interior has been preserved in its original motif, and regardless of the mélange it represents, it must be acknowledged that, if anything, it is appropriately theatrical!" (See "A Short History of Copley Symphony Hall,"Accessed 06/22/2012.) The two architectural firms directed the efforts of the William Simpson Construction Company to erect the complex. The Fox San Diego opened on 11/08/1929 and supposedly attracted 100,000 people to see the stars assembled (out of a total city population of 147,000). Following the Gildred Brothers, various owners operated the Fox until 1975.

The San Diego Fox Theatre was set within a four-story mixed-use building that occupied the whole , the first floor devoted to storefronts and the upper stories used for offices. A square tower marked by finials signaled to pedestrians and motorists the location of the theatre portion of the building. A vertical neon sign emblazoned with the name "Fox" graced the top of the tower.

Renovation occurred to the Fox in 05/1977 to accommodate live theatre. Under the San Diego Symphony Orchestra (SDSO) President, Lou Cumming, and its Music Director, David Atherton, the SDSO purchased the Fox Building occupying much of the block between 8th and 9th Avenues on B Street in 1984 for $7.5 million. The SDSO intended to reuse the theatre as its performance space, but demolish the surrounding office block and sell the remaining real estate. Money recovered from the real estate sale would be used to refurbish and maintain Copley Symphony Hall. Raising the funds to buy the block proved to be challenging, but a gift by Helen Copley of $2 million made it possible. In her honor, the hall was named. Renovation of the Fox Theatre into Copley Hall began in 03/1985 and continued through 11/1985. Originally, the Heinsbergen Decorating Company produced the elaborate Spanish Baroque/French Renaissance decorative scheme in 1928-1929; during the renovation, the company, known in 1985 as "A.T. Heinsbergen and Company," returned to direct the work, collaborating with architectural firm Deems/Lewis and Partners and the general contractor, Nielsen Construction Company. During the process of renovation and the construction of surrounding buildings, it was stipulated that whatever new buildings were erected around Symphony Hall could not touch it, to avoid transmission of vibrations that could disrupt sound quality within it.

Demolished; the Fox Building, the surrounding office/retail building, was removed in 1984.

PCAD id: 11035