AKA: Hotchkiss Theatre, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA; Empress Theatre, Downtown, Los Angeles, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Edelman, Abram M. Architect (firm); Abram M. Edelman (architect)

Dates: constructed 1903

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344 South Spring Street
Downtown, Los Angeles, CA 90013

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This Los Angeles theatre, which opened as a vaudeville house owned by Jacob Waldeck, operated for about thirty years under a variety of names. These included Waldeck's Casino (1903-1904), Casino (1904-1905), Hotchkiss Theatre (1906), Los Angeles Theatre #2 (1907-1911), Empress Theatre (1911-1914, 1917-1918), Loew's Empress (1915), and Quinn's Empress (1916). After World War I, its naming changed even more rapidly, and was apparently known by two names for periods of time during its last years of operation. It was called Biola Hall (1919) and the Zendejas (1919), and the Novel (1920-1921) and Gore's Capitol (c. 1920-1923). Both the Zendejas and Novel Theatre incarnations showed Spanish-language films. For much of the 1920s, it was called just the Capitol, but also had the names "Waxman's" and "Waxman's Capitol Theatre" during this decade. (Much of the information in this entry was derived from Historic Los Angeles Theatres--Downtown, "Empress Theatre," accessed 04/19/2017.)

Building History

Prolific Los Angeles architect Abram Edelman (1863-1941) produced the designs for Waldeck's Casino that opened on 12/21/1903 with a double bill of plays, including "Pousse" and "Anthony and Cleopatra." An announcement in the Los Angeles Herald said of the facility: "Tomorrow night another pretty and thoroughly modern playhouse will be added to the list of amusement resorts in Los Angeles. Waldeck's Casino will open its doors, and if the advance sale of seats means anything, there will be one of the finest audiences in attendance to witness the opening of the new theater ever seen in this city. With a seating capacity of 1200, it is almost as large as any house in the city, and its rich decoration and furnishings will entitle it to rank with the best. All of the Weber & Fields attractions will be presented here during the season." (See "At the Theaters," Los Angeles Herald, vol 31, no. 81, 12/20/1913, part IV, p. 1.)

Theatre manager Jacob E. Waldeck (04/20/1860-05/06/1904) advanced rapidly in his career path within the entertainment industry. He served as the Treasurer of the Orpheum Theatre circuit in 1901. (See Los Angeles, California, City Directory, 1901, p. 885.) Five years earlier, he had worked as the bookkeeper for the Germain Fruit Company. (See Los Angeles, California, City Directory, 1896, p. 1373.) Waldeck conceived of his establishment as a mutl-purpose recreation center, as it had a theatre, billiard parlor, wax museum (called the "Eden Musée,") and a roof garden. Maintaining such a varied business proved to be burdensome for Waldeck, who had a breakdown and died within six months of opening.

In 1913, the Empress Theatre was part of the Sullivan and Considine Vaudeville Circuit, run by Big Tim Sullivan (1862-1913) of New York and John Considine (1868-1943) of Seattle.

Building Notes

Waldeck's Casino had a stage measuring 27' by 60' and a full orchestra pit.

PCAD id: 21116