On Feb. 15, 2022, the historic Pasadena Civic Auditorium turned 90 years old!
By News Desk
The 2,997 seat Pasadena Civic Auditorium is a part of the Pasadena Civic Center District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In February 1932, during the lowest ebb of the Great Depression, the new Pasadena Civic Auditorium was dedicated “to the citizens of Pasadena, whose efforts and sacrifices have made the erection of this beautiful and useful building possible.” In the decades since its dedication, the Civic has hosted millions of patrons from several generations of Southern Californians.
1930s and 40s
The Civic has been the center of Pasadena’s cultural life by hosting thousands of community events such as Rose Queen Ceremonies, graduations, benefit concerts, speeches by famous personalities, and countless programs for children. The live radio broadcasts of the big band dances from the Civic in the 1940s helped to spread the fame of Pasadena across the United States. The classic Gold Room on the second floor, hosted meetings, receptions, and dinner parties of up to 300 guests.
1970s — Pasadena Center
With the construction of the Pasadena Center around the Civic Auditorium in the 1970s, the Civic became part of a full-service convention center complex that includes a conference building, exhibition building, and an adjacent hotel and parking garage. The Pasadena Civic Auditorium became the home for the Emmy Awards from 1977 until 1997.
1980s — Traveling Moller Organ
On April 23, 1980, the Traveling Moller Organ was dedicated to the Pasadena Civic Auditorium after having traveled throughout Europe, surviving World War II, and a stint at Organ Power Pizza in San Diego.
Among the many great orchestras of the world, the Civic has hosted the New York Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Pasadena Symphony. The Civic has hosted the dance program for the 1984 Olympic Arts Festival as well as repeating engagements of the American Ballet Theatre, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and the San Francisco Ballet.
Legendary Musical Performances
The auditorium was famously the site of some of the earliest live performances of the Pasadena rock band, Van Halen. Marian Anderson, Victor Borge, Eric Clapton, David Copperfield, Bob Dylan, Ella Fitzgerald, Josh Groban, Hal Holbrook, Bob Hope, Luciano Pavarotti, Arthur Rubenstein, Carlos Santana, and Stevie Wonder have all performed at the Civic. Louis Armstrong‘s 1951 album Satchmo at Pasadena was also recorded here.
The Pasadena Civic Auditorium hosted the Prime Time Emmy awards for more than twenty years. The theater is particularly well known for its TV specials such as Ray Charles 50 Years in Music and the Motown 25th Anniversary Television Special (the show is best remembered for Michael Jackson‘s performance of “Billie Jean” in which he debuted his signature dance move the “Moonwalk“).
The Civic was once a regular stop on the Broadway touring circuit with such productions as Cats, Les Miserables, Riverdance, Beauty and the Beast, and Evita.
The Civic continues to host award shows, cultural performances, musical shows, and graduation ceremonies. The historic Pasadena Civic Auditorium, its grand lobbies, and resplendent Gold Room can be seen in episodes of “America’s Got Talent,” “American Idol,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” “Scandal,” and “NCIS”.
This article has been previously published on visitpasadena.com. It’s been supplemented and edited for length and clarity.
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