Catalina’s Famous Casino

(24 Photos) I took a walking tour of the famous Catalina Casino, designed in the Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival styles at a cost of two million dollars, and opened May 29, 1929. The building featured the first movie theater designed for pictures with sound, “talkies”, and the world’s largest circular dance floor. The Casino gets its name from the Italian term casino, meaning a gathering place; there is no gambling there. My mom often told of the many trips she made to the island with her girlfriends during the 1930’s. They’d take the big steamship over, dancing on the small dance floor on the trip over, and then visit the Casino and dance the night away to the Big Bands. She and my dad made many trips later as well, when they owned a small sailboat named Whisper. The tour was fascinating. Next trip to the island, I’ll make a point of going on the extended tour and visit the museum. ~SueBee (photos by SueBee)

From Catalina Chamber of Commerce website: Catalina Casino Building – “The Catalina Casino is without a doubt Catalina Island’s most recognizable landmark.  The round, Art Deco structure rises the equivalent of 12 stories, and is surrounded by the sea on three sides.  During the day its white facade gleams in the sunshine, and at night it lights the harbor with a romantic glow. Built in 1929, the Casino – which is actually not a gambling hall but “place of entertainment” – played host to dozens of Big Bands through the 1930s and 1940s.  Guests came by steamship to Charleston and later jitterbug on the huge parquet floor.  They danced the night away to the music of Glen Miller, Harry James, Kay Kyser, and many others over the years.

The largest number of dancers ever in the Casino was 6,200 people dancing to the music of Kay Kyser, on May 8, 1940.  Virtually every Big Band of that era played in the Casino Ballroom.  Live broadcasts were carried over CBS radio from 1934 into the 1950s.

Although the Big Bands have long faded away, the Casino Ballroom still attracts crowds for celebrations of all sorts.  Completely restored just a few years ago, the ballroom retains its original style—a lavish medley of rose-hued walls, black Art Deco reliefs, an arching fifty-foot ceiling with five Tiffany chandeliers, an elevated stage, raised seating areas around the dance floor, and a vintage, full-service bar in back.  The outdoor balcony that encircles the ballroom overlooks the protected cove of Avalon Bay and Descanso Beach.

The Casino Ballroom is available for private functions, and is a very popular spot for weddings and special events.  Visitors can also see the inside of the Casino Building on one of several daily walking tours.

The Casino Art Gallery, Avalon Theatre, and Catalina Island Museum are also located in the Casino Building, on the lower level.  Open daily, the Museum boasts an outstanding collection of archaeological material excavated on the island, as well as historic photographs, displays, and Catalina pottery.  For more information, contact the Museum at (310) 510-2414.”

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Categories: Historic Sites, Photography


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4 Comments on “Catalina’s Famous Casino”

  1. Jul 23, 2014 at 7:40 pm #

    Art Deco? Cool! I may have to take a ride over.

  2. Jul 23, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    Beautiful. How I would love to dance in that ballroom.

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