AKA: Clunie Theatre and Office Building, Downtown, Sacramento, CA

Structure Type: built works - performing arts structures - opera houses; built works - performing arts structures - theatres

Designers: Gray, Alonzo, Building Contractor (firm); Milton Alonzo Gray

Dates: constructed 1885, demolished 1986

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801 K Street
Downtown, Sacramento, CA 95814

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The Clunie Hotel and Theatre began operating in 1885 at the corner of 8th and K Streets in Sacramento's central business district. A department store replaced the theatre's location at 811 K Street in 1923, but the hotel building remained until being razed in 1986. (See Performingartsasrchive.com, "Clunie Theatre," accessed 01/11/2024.)

Building History

Born in Saint Johns, NL, Canada, the Sacramento lawyer, politician and businessman Thomas Jefferson Clunie (1852-1903) commissioned the construction of the Clunie Opera House and an adjacent hotel, called in 1893 "the Clunie Lodging House."

In 1893, Mrs. D.B. Magee managed the hotel, while J.H. Todd was the opera house's acting manager. (See Sacramento, California, City Directory, 1893, p. 168.) The hotel was located on the northeast corner of 8th and K Streets, while the Opera House was situated on the north side of K Street between 8th and 9th Streets.

Clunie also owned the Metropolitan Theatre in Sacramento during the 1890s, for which J.H. Todd was also the manager in 1893. (See Sacramento, California, City Directory, 1893, p. 378)

An article in the Sacramento Daily Union said of the Clunie Theatre's management and programming: "The Clunie Opera House, now the only theatre in Sacramento, was erected by Thomas J. Clunie several years ago, and opened after a brief season under Ben Cotton, under the direction of a firm, one of whom was a scenic artist and the other without theatrical experience of any kind. Since then it has been alternately in the hands of theatrical people, operatic artistes and vaudeville companies, and for the greater length of time it was managed through the agency of the proprietorship. Early in its history it was graced by two famous artistes, the elder Salvini and Mary Anderson. From them to negro minstrelsy, the theatre circus, the spectacular and vaudeville with occasional dramatic and operatic seasons it has vacillated, until less than a year ago the owner practically rebuilt it, giving it a handsomer interior, enlarged seating capacity and improved ingress and egress facilities. About that time it came under the lesseeship of the Orpheum organisation, with the late Gustave Walter as director general, and Frank R. Clifton as local manager. It had fair measure of success as "The Orpheum No.3," but it was found that for continuous vaudeville the community is not sufficiently large to maintain a constantly open house with one class of entertainment all the time upon the boards. With the recent death of Mr. Walter, the Orpheum people deemed it advisable to change the character of the house and on Saturday afternoon of this week it will open with Hopkins' Trans-Oceanic Variety Company, for three performances, when it will become what is known as a combination house. Through all its changes of management the house has remained cleanly. It has been uniformly well conducted, and no scandals have been related to it. Nothing has attached to the pretty theatre to injure its good name, and it, therefore, enters this week upon a new career with its fame untarnished, and the prospect for its future fair and promising." (See "Local Theatrical Change," Sacramento Daily Union, 06/09/1898, as quoted in Joeboganny.co.uk, A Circus, Music-Hall, Theatre, Vaudeville & Variety Family History Website, published 2021, accessed 01/12/2024.)

George W. Ficks was the manager of the Clunie Theatre in 1900. (See Sacramento, California, City Directory, 1900, p. 28.)

In 1903, Hall and Barton were the proprietors and managers of the Clunie Theatre at 811 K Street. The theatre remained a "combination house" at this time, serving as a venue for vaudeville, musical and dramatic acts. Hall and Barton continued to manage the Clunie until at least 1905, although Charles P. Hall lived in San Francisco at this time. (See Sacramento, California, City Directory, 1905, p. 251.)

Hall moved to Sacramento by 1906, continued to manage the Clunie in 1906-1909, with P. Wilson serving as its treasurer. (See Sacramento, California, City Directory, 1906, p. 250, Julius Cahn's Official Theatrical Guide 1907-1908,Volume XII, [New York: Julius Cahn, 1907], p.321 and Sacramento Directory Company's Sacramento City Directory, 1909, p. 166.)

Building Notes

The Clunie Theatre operated at 811 K Street in 1899. (See Sacramento, California, City Directory, 1899, p. 680.)

Julius Cahn's Official Theatrical Guide 1907-1908indicated that the Clunie Theatre contained 565 orchestra and orchestra circle seats, 511 balcony seats, 200 gallery seats, and 50 box and loge seats for a total of 1,326. The stage had a 34-foot-wide x 34-foot-high proscenium, and the theatre was 74 feet wide. (See Julius Cahn's Official Theatrical Guide 1907-1908,Volume XII, [New York: Julius Cahn, 1907], p.321.)

A Clunie Coffee Shop operated inside the Clunie Hotel in the 1930s and 1940s.

A collection of theatrical ephemera, "Clunie Theatre (Sacramento), 1898-1907," has been archived at the California State Historical Society, San Francisco, CA.


The theatre's interior was renovated c. 1897 by its ownership just before it became leased by San Francisco's Orpheum Theatre circuit.


The Clunie Opera House and Lodging House was torn down. The 28-story Renaissance Tower, built in 1989, later occupied the site at 801 K Street.

PCAD id: 24004