California's First Theatre
RESTORE PRESERVE PROMOTE
Current Fundraising Efforts
MSHPA and California State Parks are working together to restore California's First Theatre as a resource to the community that will enable performances, education, interpretation, and special events to meet our shared vision to preserve and sustain Monterey’s distinctive history.
In 2019, MSHPA received $194,360 through the Save America's Treasures grant program, funded by the Historic Preservation Fund, and administered by the National Park Service, Department of Interior. MSHPA has also received grants for the First Theatre restoration from the Community Foundation for Monterey County and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation. MSHPA has matched over $200,000 in funds towards the restoration. Resources received from these grants will go towards installing a French drainage system, fire suppression repairs, and ADA upgrades to the building.
The total estimated for restoration is $2,000,000. Help us to realize this goal by making a donation today!
MSHPA and California State Parks are working together to restore California's First Theatre as a resource to the community that will enable performances, education, interpretation, and special events that meet our shared vision to preserve and sustain Monterey’s distinctive history.
1846: John A. (Jack) Swan acquires land on Calle Estrada, now sw corner of Pacific and Scott Streets in Monterey. House is built. Part of it later becomes a saloon.
1847: Long adobe complete by the end of the year and serves as a boarding house for sailors, along with the saloon. Swan a successful businessman.
1848-50: Begins conversion of building into a theater. First play produced in spring. Performances continue with a resident group of locals and mustered sailors through February 1850. Ten plays are produced over the twenty one months.
1850-96: Swan rents his adobe and begins a life seeking gold in the Sierra. The house and adobe function over the next 46 years as a lodging house, whaling station (addition of a look out tower occurred in the 1850s), a drug store in the 1870s and finally a tea room and shop.
1885: After a Gold Rush boom-and-bust life, Swan retires penniless to his house.
1896: Swan dies. The adobe and house sit empty and begin to deteriorate.
1906: Building purchased by a group of Monterey citizens (Hurst Family) and deeded to the State of California.
1920: Restoration complete and buildings reopened as a museum.
1937: Denny-Watrous Management of Carmel lease the building for theatrical performances. The Troupers of the Gold Coast begin residence.
1999: Building closed for restoration.
Brief Chronology of California’s First Theatre
Image: Jack Swan