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Friday, July 6, 2012

Lost Neon Sign: Martinez's State Theatre

20120612 State Theatre

This is my second attempt at this blog entry on the giant, crumpled neon sign in the parking lot of the Warehouse Cafe in Port Costa. It says "STATE" on it, with the "ATE" on one side of the bent-in-half sign, and the "ST" on the other. In searching for where it might have come from, I stumbled upon a small photo online of the old sign for the Golden State Theatre in Monterey, which for a time just went by "State Theatre," and no longer has its neon. They looked the same, and I posted a blog entry, but it was a very small image.

I later was able to find a better image, and see that the "A"s did not match. Plus, I had someone point out my error in a comment on my blog, and another in a comment on my Flickr photo. The latter also led me to the real identity of the sign: it came from the State Theatre in Martinez. That does make much more sense for hauling that giant sign to Port Costa, which is right in between Martinez and Crockett.

According to the information posted on the Cinema Treasures entry for the State Theatre, it was built in 1926, but remodeled in 1932 after a fire a year earlier. I would guess that the sign dates from 1932. Here's a photo of the theater with the sign on it all lit up, from 1942.

So how did the sign end up in Port Costa? The sign likely came down sometime in the 1960s. The theater stopped regular operation in 1961, but reopened briefly at least a couple of times after that. And it would have made perfect sense for Bill Rich to have brought it to Port Costa then.

Bill Rich, according to a San Francisco Chronicle article, bought much of historic Port Costa in 1960, the year after the railroad closed its switching yard and roundabout there, removing the town's last economic reason for existing. Rich filled the Warehouse Cafe and the Burlington Hotel with "antiques and oddities," including quite a bit of architectural salvage and a giant stuffed polar bear, which decorate the Warehouse Cafe.

20080329 Warehouse Cafe
Warehouse Cafe Interior

But then there's this entry on the Cinema Treasures listing:

In the mid-seventies, I worked for a woman who had the original marquee. I recently (Dec 2007) went back to the Bay Area for Christmas and drove by where the woman stored it. Oh my God!!! The marquee is still there!

And I don't remember seeing the sign in Port Costa when I went there to eat at the Warehouse Cafe in March of 2008.

But there are photos of the sign labeled as being in Port Costa taken in 2005 and 2006 on Flickr. Unfortunately, those are close-ups of detail, and don't give any clue as to the exact location. Maybe it was just tucked away somewhere in Port Costa.

I welcome any additional information!

Oh, and here's the Martinez Historical Society's page on the theater.

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