Extended History/Tour

To find out more about Crest's historic milestones, please click on the links/images on the following timeline.


1912 ~ The Empress
1949 ~ The Crest Theatre








1918 ~ The Hippodrome
1986 ~ Re-opening



1912 - The Empress

"Sullivan and Considine wanted to build the grandest theater Sacramento had ever seen."

1912 ~ The Empress The History of the Crest is a varied one. It went through many incarnations, accidents and new beginnings. The theater began life housing Vaudeville. Two men, Sullivan and Considine, during, the first decade of the new century, managed a number of vaudeville acts which they packaged into travelling revues. Not only did they control the acts but they also owned theatres. They had a string of theatres, all of which were named the "Empress" ", patterned after the Orpheum circuit in the East.

At that time there was not much in the way of entertainment Movies, primarily nickelodeons (short films generally in a loop viewed through a small machine) were few and far between, mainly in the East.

Sullivan and Considine saw Sacramento as a town of 200,000 that they felt desperately needed their brand of entertainment They staged shows to test the market with great success and decided to build an "Empress" in Sacramento. Anxious to get a-foot in the door, they took a lease on the Grand Theater, located on 7th Street (between K & L). After renaming it Empress, they brought Sacramento a taste of the grandeur of a Sullivan and Considine show while they scouted for a suitable site. They found it on K Street.

The lot was large and situated right downtown - a block from the capitol, half block from the cathedral and in the raised part of the city. (To protect the city from flooding J & K Streets had been filled in the late 1800's, making everyone's second floor their new street level entrance). Additionally, the streetcar tracks ran right down K Street enabling their audience easy transportation to the portals of the theater. The land was owned by the Physicians Building Co. and Sullivan and Considine, through their organization, Empress Theater Company, signed a 50 year lease on June 20, 1912. The stage was set and action began -they brought in their architects, headed by Lee DeCamp of Seattle, which had designed other Empresses and started to work on their dreams. They wanted to build the grandest theater Sacramento had ever seen. The architects designed a palace with a balcony, opera seats in front, private boxes on the side and a full working stage. The pattern painted on the walls was rich with reds and greens. The restrooms were on the mezzanine level with a ramp, in addition to the usual stairs. Sacramento had never seen a ramp in a theater before but they had never seen a nursery in a theater either (the ramp was to wheel the baby carriages up). There were seats for close to 2000 Sacramentans to watch national acts cavort across the stage. These plans were approved by the city officials in June 1912, with ground breaking ceremonies on July 13, 1912. The newspapers trumpeted the fact that a new vision of loveliness was about to be unfurled. The building started in Fall 1912 with the construction of huge scaffolding around the 4 foot thick brick walls. Once the shell was constructed the artisans moved in, bringing gold leaf, plaster and paint They formed soaring shapes and created an atmosphere of elegance. An artisan, from New York, was hired to paint the three panelled mural bracketing the stage depicting California scenes and products. Workmen installed the ropes and pulleys for flying the scenery and installed luxurious seats with plush stuffing and fine leather. There were no exposed light fixtures in the auditorium, all light being reflected into the room from fixtures concealed within the decorative ornamentation. The stage opening or proscenium was 29 feet high by 40 feet wide. There were ten dressing rooms each with hot and cold running water, steam heat, and all the modern conveniences. The ventilation system was worthy of special note as it was designed to change the entire volume of air in the house every two minutes. This was accomplished with a elaborate plant located under the stage consisting of a 108 inch exhaust fan and for bringing fresh air in, a 160 inch fan, over 13 feet in size! Safety was a prime feature of the new playhouse with a sprinkler system, connected to a large tank on the roof able to drench the dressing rooms, scenery and stage within seconds. The auditorium itself was equipped with 14 exits, enabling the house to be emptied within three minutes. To provide adequate space for the exits, the rear 8 feet of the buildings on K street were removed to provide a broad avenue that emptied onto K street The original budget was $100,000 and the theatre was scheduled to open in December. It actually cost a $150,000 and didn't open until January 1913.

At 6:45 pm, on January 19, 1913, Sullivan and Considine threw the doors open and gave to Sacramento its largest and most elegant theatre. (There was no Memorial Auditorium or Alhambra Theatre yet). The cream of Sacramentan society and most of the legislature were present for the opening night. McCurry's was there to snap the photo of the opening night crowd which appeared in the Bee the next day along with a detailed account The Empress orchestra had been assembled and was ready to play an original composition, "The New Empress", written especially for the occasion. The opening took place on Sunday and the next day the theatre opened to the general public for the serious business of entertainment.

Sullivan and Considine provided Sacramento with entertainment for only a year. For unknown reasons, they relinquished the Empress on August 1, 1914 to Loew's Corporation and it became the Loew's Empress. Loew's continued with the general theme of vaudeville and, in 1918 during World War 1, the Sacramento Hippodrome Theatre Company was formed and took the lease over, renaming it The Hippodrome.

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