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San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Architects: Arthur Burnett Benton, William J. Dodd

First Opened: 5th March 1927 (97 years ago)

Former Names: Mission Play House

Website: www.missionplayhouse.org Open website in new window

Telephone: (626) 308-2865 Call (626) 308-2865

Address: 320 South Mission Dr, San Gabriel, CA 91776 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

The San Gabriel Mission Playhouse sits beside the historic San Gabriel Mission in Los Angeles County California. The theatre was constructed between 1923 and 1927 for “The Mission Play”, a 3-hour pageant-style production conceived to illustrate the establishment of the California missions. The theatre currently seats 1,387 on two levels and its architecture reflects Spanish, Native-American and Californian culture. The theatre houses a fully-restored Wurlitzer Organ.

Featured Photos

Detailed Information

The 1927 Auditorium
The 1927 Auditorium

The theatre was designed by Arthur Burnett Benton and William J. Dodd and was built by John S. McGroarty, whose bust is still the current centerpiece of the lobby. The theatre’s façade resembles the San Antonio de Padua mission near Monterey, McGroarty’s favorite California mission.

The interior architecture features huge lanterns modeled on those found aboard Spanish galleons. The ceiling is suspended plaster intricately painted to resemble a wooden beam paneled ceiling. Tapestries adorn the auditorium walls and were a gift from the King of Spain for the theatre’s opening in 1927.

In 1932 the long run of “The Mission Play” ended and the theatre started showing movies, necessitating the addition of a projection booth at the rear of the balcony. During the war years some of the dressing rooms were used as makeshift apartments; following the war citizens of San Gabriel concerned for the theatre’s future lobbied the city to purchase it, which ultimately happened in 1945.

Theatre Exterior
Theatre Exterior

The theatre is home to a 3-manual, 18-rank Mighty Wurlitzer organ (Opus 870) which was originally built in 1924 for installation into the RKO Albee Theatre in Brooklyn, NY. The organ was carefully packed and shipped in late 1968, arriving in San Gabriel the day before Thanksgiving. Volunteers from the Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society (LATOS) Link opens in new window spent the following years refurbishing the organ and it was dedicated in February 1972. In 2007, the Peter Lloyd Crotty Family Fund agreed to fund a second restoration of the organ, which included electrification of the console and the installation of an elevator, along with the addition of some digital voices. The organ was rededicated in 2010.

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How do I visit the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse?

As of March 2017 tours are arranged on an adhoc basis for groups of 5 or more. Each tour gives a great insight into the building’s rich history, restoration programs and current activities, affording an overview of the architectural and design elements that grace both interior and exterior, and a demonstration of the renowned Wurlitzer Theatre Organ. For more details check the Mission Playhouse’s website Link opens in new window.

Further Reading


Technical Information

Flying System
Flying System
Single Purchase Counterweight and Pin Rail (Hemp and Sandbag)
Grid Height
62ft 10in
House Curtains
Main: Red Velour; 2nd Red (speakers curtain): Red Velour; 1 Flat Black Velour 50ft x 30ft; 1 Bounce Curtain 50ft x 30ft
House Masking
4 sets Black Legs 13ft x 30ft; 4 sets Black Borders 58ft x 12ft
House Pipes
52ft long, 52ft travel
40 Counterweights and at least 4 Full Hemp Sets
Stage Right Locking Rail; loading from Pin Rail 20ft 9in from stage floor
Orchestra Pit
Approximately 18 Musicians
Stage Dimensions
Apron Depth
6ft 3in
Center Line to S.L.
46ft 1in
Center Line to S.R.
46ft 1in
Floor Surface
Black Tempered Masonite
Grid Height
62ft 10in
Proscenium Height
29ft 7in (at highest point)
Proscenium Width
53ft 10in
Stage Depth
48ft 1in
Historic Photos & Documents
Files displayed in this section may be subject to copyright; refer to our Copyright Fair Use Statement regarding our use of copyrighted media.

Photos of the San Gabriel Mission Playhouse

Jump to Photo Section:

  1. Auditorium
  2. Exterior
  3. Backstage

The theatre was designed by Arthur Burnett Benton and William J. Dodd.


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