AKA: Sebastiani Theater, Sonoma, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Reid, James William, Architect (firm); Thomas, Leonard L., Building Contractor (firm); James William Reid (architect); Leonard L. Thomas (building contractor)

Dates: constructed 1932-1934

476 1st Street East
Downtown, Sonoma, CA 95476

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Vintner Samuele Sebastiani (1874–1944) commissioned the San Francisco architect James W. Reid (1851-1943) to design this movie house in 1932. The Reid Brothers designed at least 9 other movie theatres throughout the Bay Area, this being the last. The Sebastiani Theatre opened on 04/07/1934 with a screening of the MGM picture, "The Fugitive Lovers," (1934) starring Madge Evans and Robert Montgomery.

Gerald Hill, Historian for the Sonoma Index-Tribune newspaper, wrote of the Sebastiani Theatre in 2009: "Beginning in November 1932, and continuing through 1933, Sonomans followed the rise of 160 tons of steel framework, topped by a tower higher than City Hall. Shipments of well-ged oak barrel staves from a dismantled Sacramento brewery arrived to be used for railings and doors, and the floor of the 60-foot-long foyer was laid with mosaic tiles. The design included a 60-by 80-foot stage large enough for dramatic performances, extensive lighting, and a massive metal marquee with 'Sebastiani Theatre' spelled out in red neon supplied by nearby Mission Hardware. And in a period of high unemployment there was a minimum of 30 construction workers being paid by building contractor Leonard L. Thomas." (See Gerald Hill, "Sonoma's Gem: Sebastiani Theatre reaches 75," originally published in the Sonoma Index-Tribune, 04/07/2009,Accessed 02/02/2012.)

In 1988, the Friends of Sebastiani Theatre non-profit foundation began its operations. Its founder, Roger Rhoten, proved pivotal in the continued efforts to maintain and update the theatre as a community resource.

The Mission Hardware Building nearby burned in 09/1990 threatening the theatre; firefighters managed to contain the blaze to the hardware building at its neighbor, but not the Sebastiani Theatre. The City of Sonoma closed the theatre the following year in 11/1991 due to damage caused by water leaks within the building.

PCAD id: 17531