One of the most impressive and easily identifiable landmarks in Avalon, California on Catalina Island is known as the Catalina Casino. But don’t be fooled by its name. There isn’t actually a gambling hall here, but you will find a ballroom, museum and theater. This stunning example of architecture continues to be a focal point on the island. It graces all those who enter its doors with its sweeping beauty, fascinating history and exciting events. The Catalina Casino has an interesting history.
About the Casino
Today, the casino stands on a piece of land that was known as Sugarloaf Point. This was cleared to make room to build Hotel St. Catherine. However, the hotel building was eventually constructed in Descanso Canyon instead.
Eventually, the cleared land was used to build a dance hall under the direction of William Wrigley Jr., of the chewing gum company. Wrigley Jr. named the new dance hall, Sugarloaf Casino. At one time, this building did have a casino that was short-lived. It had a ballroom and even was home to the first high school in Avalon.
Experience the stunning architecture of the Catalina Casino
The casino was demolished in 1928 and then rebuilt as a bigger building. At the time, Sugarloaf Rock was destroyed to better the view from the new Casino building. An investment of $2 million finalized the new Casino in mid-1929. The design is known as both Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival. In fact, it was the first completely circular building to be created in the modern era and received awards. The actual height of the building stands equivalent to that of a 12 story building.
There are walking tours of the Catalina Casino which are very interesting. Two of the more popular tours are Behind the Scenes tour and the Discover the Casino tour. These are offered year-round and feature discussions about the history of the casino.
Entertainment and History
Just as it has for decades, the Catalina Casino continues to offer great entertainment. It has long been a top choice for entertainment of all types from first-run movies to Broadway productions.
Although some are confused by the name “Casino,” the name casino in this case traces its roots within the Italian language. Casino, in this instance, means a “gathering place.”
Restored in recent years, the ballroom still continues to maintain the style of grace and romance that recalls Avalon’s past. The ballroom features walls with rose coloring, five massive Tiffany chandeliers within the 55-foot ceiling, a raised stage, seating areas and a full-service bar.
The Avalon Theater is located on the lower level and seats 1,184 people. There are wall murals by John Gabriel Beckman giving a great art deco atmosphere. It’s a spot to catch the latest first-run film nearly any night of the week.
The Catalina Casino also is home to a number of annual events on the island. Those interested in the history and stunning architecture, can enjoy a tour of the casino.