From Motorcars to Movies

By Larry Clinton

The recently-shuttered Marin Theatre, at Caledonia and Pine Streets, was built in 1942.  Before that the property had served various purposes, starting as a garage.

In 1911, the Sausalito News reported that K. M. Dates, president of the Marin Auto Livery Co., had purchased the lot “fronting ninety feet on Caledonia and one hundred feet on Pine Street for a garage and machine shop.”

The second floor Tamalpais Pavilion had a seating capacity of 1800 patrons.
Photo courtesy of Sausalito Historical Society

A promotional brochure entitled Sausalito, the Geneva of the Americas, described the Dates building as the most modern garage in California, adding that it “Has dressing rooms for ladies and every accommodation for its patrons.”

That building was damaged in a fire, and eventually “was sold to Dave Langsam, the junk dealer, for $2765 by the estate of Bessie S. Dates, deceased,” the Sausalito News reported in January, 1917.  According to the paper, “Mr. Langsam expects to spend a couple of thousand dollars in bettering the condition of the building." 

By 1922, Langsam, who was also a realtor, leased the property to Mr. H.S. Bell, who moved his Ford repair business there.

Twenty years later, the paper announced the building of a new theatre on the site, noting: “The structure is occupied at present by the Clipper Yacht Company and by Jack Douglas, owner of the Sausalito Fuel, Ice and Moving concern, who expects to locate in another section of the city.”  Remembering those days, longtime resident Margaret Jewett told the Historical Society that Douglas would sell coal and wood out of the first floor of the building, “and rent the upstairs hall for events.  Boxing matches and such.” Douglas was also the original proprietor of the Ice House, when it was located on Caledonia.

The coming of WWII led to more changes.  Margaret Jewett recalled, “With all those workers in town at the Marinship they needed some entertainment, but you couldn’t build a structure that would cost more than $10,000 during the war because supplies were needed for the war.” In 1942 the building was purchased by the Blumenfeld Theatre chain, which operated six other movie houses in Marin and San Francisco.

Chain executive Abe Blumenfeld told the Sausalito News, “this is only a start . . . we have big plans for Sausalito.” The new theatre would seat more than twice the capacity of the circuit’s existing  Gate Theatre on Bridgeway, he predicted.   

When the $15,000 800-seat theatre officially opened, in January, 1943, it was hailed as part of “the expansion of local business firms to the Caledonia Street shopping center,” according to Blumenfeld.  Manager Eric Wilson noted that although the facility had been built under War Production Board restrictions, “We have tried to give the public the best we could under wartime conditions.”

The January 7, 1943 issue of the Sausalito News welcomed the theatre to the emerging Caledonia corridor, and carried congratulatory ads from neighboring businesses, including Langsam, Douglas,  Ashoff’s Bakery and Quality Market.