Catalina Island’s Crown Jewel: 1929 Casino

Walkway to Casino

Walkway to Casino

Entrance to Casino

Entrance to Casino

Close-up of 18-foot-tall Catalina Tile Mermaid

Close-up of 18-foot-tall Catalina Tile Mermaid

Black Walnut Paneled Lobby with Seashell Theme Chairs

Black Walnut Paneled Lobby with Seashell Theme Chairs

22-Karat Gold Leaf Stars on Ceiling

22-Karat Gold Leaf Stars on Ceiling

Art Deco Avalon Theater (seats 1,154 people)

Art Deco Avalon Theater (seats 1,154 people)

Looking Toward Entrance Doors Inside Theater

Looking Toward Entrance Doors Inside Theater

1929 Exotic Peacock Mural in Theater

1929 Exotic Peacock Mural in Theater

California Desert Landscape Mural with Stylized Leaping Antelopes in Theater

California Desert Landscape Mural with Stylized Leaping Antelopes in Theater

Reproduction in 22-Karat Gold Leaf of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Above Stage

Reproduction in 22-Karat Gold Leaf of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus Above Stage

Close-up of Intricate Design of Proscenium Arch Above Stage

Close-up of Intricate Design of Proscenium Arch Above Stage

1929 Page Pipe Organ in Theater (one of three in world and still in use today)

1929 Page Pipe Organ in Theater (one of three in world and still in use today)

Theater Projectors / Original Editing Room where Cecil B. DeMille Viewed Daily Island Movie Shoots

Theater Projectors / Original Editing Room where Cecil B. DeMille Viewed Daily Island Movie Shoots

Benny Goodman Poster

Benny Goodman Poster

World’s Largest Circular Ballroom (can hold over 6,000 people and has no support beams)

World’s Largest Circular Ballroom (can hold over 6,000 people and has no support beams)

Looking Straight Up at Tiffany Chandelier in Ballroom

Looking Straight Up at Tiffany Chandelier in Ballroom

Riding a Dolphin Design in Sterling Silver Leaf in Ballroom

Riding a Dolphin Design in Sterling Silver Leaf in Ballroom

Romance Promenade Overlooking Avalon Harbor

Romance Promenade Overlooking Avalon Harbor

Casino Fish Bar

Casino Fish Bar

Lyrics to Avalon, Sung by Al Jolson in 1920

Lyrics to Avalon, Sung by Al Jolson in 1920

Catalina’s historic Casino is the crown jewel of Avalon, California. Its name means “gathering place” or “entertainment” in Italian (it never hosted gambling). The Casino was built in 1929 by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley and features the world’s largest circular ballroom. Benny Goodman’s Big Band music was broadcast live from there to a nationwide audience in the 1930s and 1940s. Movie stars including Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Cary Grant, and more visited the Casino during that era. The ballroom is still in use today.  

The Casino reflects its island location through designs and furnishings with sea themes. The murals were painted over 3 months’ time by John Gabriel Beckman in 1929 (he had previously worked on murals at Grauman’s Chinese Theater). Murals outside above the main entrance feature ocean life, kelp forests, and an 18-foot tall Catalina tile mermaid. Murals inside the art deco Avalon Theater reflect California’s early history and environment. The Avalon Theater was used as a model to design the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The architecture of the Casino is amazing, and the setting is stunning!    (Click on any image for enlargement and more detailed information.)

About Pam
Richard and Pam lived in the San Francisco Bay Area 14 years (1987-1999 and 2008-2011). They lived in Florida 13 years previously, until returning in July 2011 to present. They hope their photography will encourage you to get out and discover nature's beauty in your own backyard, parks, and wild places. Click on any pictures on this blog to see them full size with additional details.

6 Responses to Catalina Island’s Crown Jewel: 1929 Casino

  1. Dymoon says:

    I love the art deco feel. Would love to experience this for myself.. great pics

  2. Thanks for the wonderful photos and story. I never knew!

  3. elisa ruland says:

    I’ve enjoyed gazing at Catalina Island from the coast, but I had no idea of its history, including gambling. The history of the casino is fascinating, and I always enjoy reading about the glamours celebrities of that era. I really enjoyed this, Pam!

    • Pam says:

      I am so happy you liked it! Sometime it is well worth a ferry ride over for you from Long Beach or elsewhere to see Catalina. And be sure to schedule the hour long Casino tour – you see so much more. It is a fascinating place!

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