Built in 1849 in Gold Rush-era Sacramento, this tin-roofed, wooden-framed building was the first purpose-built theater in California.
A small white structure with canvas walls, the playhouse was originally constructed by the owners of a nearby saloon, to provide entertainment of the numerous miners that were flooding the city. It’s believed it was made from timbers and canvas taken from ships abandoned in San Francisco.
Though it was built to be a permanent fixture of the new and fast-growing town, the original building was actually destroyed by flooding in January, 1850, just about three months after its opening. A replica was reconstructed in 1974, located within the Old Sacramento Historic State Park.
The building and contents are as close to the original as possible, with a few minor changes. The floor of the 1849 building was just beaten earth, but in the replica this was replaced with an asphalt floor. The wooden bench seating in the main auditorium is also now restricted to 150 audience members—a much smaller capacity than used to be crammed into the space, presumably changed for safety reasons.