The Heritage Theatre has long been viewed as a significant architectural and historical resource for the West Santa Clara Valley. The facility that is now known as the Heritage Theatre was originally built in 1938 as the Campbell Union High School Auditorium with Work Project Administration funds. Campbell Union High School served the community for over 40 years with more than 20,000 students performing on the stage.
This mid-size venue is available for both rentals and in-house productions. Schools, regional arts organizations, community non-profit groups, government agencies, individuals, and private-sector businesses are all welcome.
The building’s original architect was William H. Weeks. By the late 1910s, William H. Weeks was known to have designed over 500 buildings in California, from as far north as Crescent City to as far south as Santa Barbara. Among his buildings were the Hotel De Anza in San Jose and the Santa Cruz Casino also known as the Coconut Grove at the Boardwalk. The architectural form is Spanish Colonial Revival, and Weeks favored subdued ornamentation in his designs during this period. The theatre features open grillwork on the arched front windows, and colorful, hand-painted decorative tiles as embellishments.
Historic Building Registries
The theatre is listed on four historic building registries:
The National Register of Historic Places, 1989
California Point of Historic Interest, 1985
County of Santa Clara Historic Resources Inventory
City of Campbell Historic Landmark, 1986 HPB 86-02
When Campbell Union High School District decided to close the school in 1980, the City of Campbell stepped in to save the recreation and open space resources. On August 1, 1985 the site’s ownership was turned over to the City of Campbell and the Campbell Community Center was born. The Community Center quickly became a focal point for the community, drawing people to the recreation classes, sports fields, special events, and facilities. Although it was closed at the time of the city’s purchase, the Heritage Theatre has always been an integral part of this community focus.
The Theatre was shut down in 1982 due to structural concerns related to the flat roof. This once great cultural resource was “dark” for 20 years (1982 – 2002).
Restoration: The Theatre Options Study and Business Plan
In 1995, the City of Campbell hired VenueTech Management Group to assist in the development of a Theatre Options Study and Business Plan as a tool to restore and operate the Theatre. The results of the study were presented to the City Council in April of 1996 and included a conceptual architectural plan and cost estimate for the renovation of the Heritage Theatre.
This plan served as a catalyst for the City of Campbell and a group of committed community volunteers to form the Friends of the Heritage Theatre, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of the historic theatre.
Incorporated since December 1998, the Friends of the Heritage Theatre worked to introduce this project to local and state authorities who, with community leaders and the City of Campbell, made pledges and challenge grants for their $3 million fundraising goal. Although the total project cost estimate was $8.5 million, the Friends of the Heritage Theatre’s fundraising goal was set for $3 million. The organization’s goals are to promote the restoration and use of the Heritage Theatre as a performing arts facility, to educate the community as to its history and historical significance, and to raise funds to support the restoration and on-going operations.
The Heritage Theatre Restoration Project included the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the historic 1938 Campbell Union High School Auditorium as a community performing arts theater, with new additions to provide accessible public entry, an enlarged lobby, ticketing, accessible restrooms, a backstage, loading dock, and an outdoor public area.
The renovated theatre is 20,229 square feet and seats a maximum of 800 patrons. The fully restored and renovated Heritage Theatre features state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems. There are three levels including the basement, which houses the mechanical room, storage room, orchestra pit and elevator equipment; the ground floor, or main floor contains the box office, lobby, sound booth, restrooms, auditorium, stage, and dressing rooms; the light control booth and balcony seating are located on the second floor.
Interior rehabilitation included reconstruction of the lobby and redesign of the auditorium to provide an enlarged lobby, concession space, and the addition of elevators to serve the balcony, stage and orchestra pit. The auditorium level flooring was replaced with a more steeply raked floor to improve sight-lines. All seating was replaced. The existing auditorium ceiling was modified for new house lighting and mechanical systems as well as new theatrical lighting systems. New ceiling panels replicating the original colorful stenciled panels were installed throughout. The renovation retained and protected all identified historic building spaces, elements and features.
The stage is 1,500 square feet, has a new floor and a new 500-square-foot orchestra pit. When the orchestra pit is not in use, the stage can be expanded with a removable platform serving as a thrust stage, or the available audience seating can be increased with the addition of a removable auditorium floor over the pit. The proscenium is 18 feet high and 31 feet wide. There are three dressing rooms backstage; one is 210 square feet and two larger dressing rooms are 250 square feet each. The backstage green room is 380 square feet.
The renovation was designed by the architectural firm of C. David Robinson, from San Francisco. It was designed to maintain the historic integrity and architectural detail of the original building while bringing it up to modern codes of comfort, accessibility, and use of technology. The east and west arcades, which were included on the original plans, but never constructed, are new to accommodate additional restrooms and ingress and egress for the disabled. The construction firm of Robert A. Bothman, Inc., himself a Campbell High School graduate, carried out the plan to perfection. This 800-seat theatre has truly become the beautiful and treasured jewel we all imagined.
2,100-square-foot ‘West Arcade’ with exterior entry / exit, restrooms, mechanical rooms, and interior hallway
110-square-foot ‘East Arcade’ with exterior entry ramp
1,800-square-foot ‘Sidestage’ addition with open storage area, electrical room, elevator, exterior loading platform, and stairwell to the basement
Dressing rooms, green room, and performer restrooms
Site and Landscape Construction
New ADA-compliant entry and ticket booth located at front of theater
Landscaped ‘Courtyard’ on east side of theater
Paved and landscaped ‘service drive’ accessing the loading platform at west side of theater
New landscaping, lighting, and paving to replace existing at building perimeter
Construction of two reflection ponds with a night-lit public art feature
February 14, 2004
The Grand Opening Gala starring Tommy Tune and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings opened to a house of excited citizens, proud donors and community leaders. At 7 p.m. the ribbon was cut and the doors were opened as attendees celebrated with champagne and an array of dessert delicacies. The event was a huge success and the Heritage Theatre was once again alive with music, dancing and celebration!
During its first full year of operation, the Heritage Theatre hosted 88 events and over 36,500 people. It is the city’s goal to have the Heritage Theatre break even on operating expenses within three years of its opening.