Granada Theater: A Tall Tale

The Granada Theater is (and continues to be) the only 8 story building in Santa Barbara. As the home of the Santa Barbara Symphony, Opera Santa Barbara, State Street Ballet and Santa Barbara Choral Society, this historic theater is truly an anchor for our vibrant downtown arts district.

When the Granada Theater was built in 1924, many community members were offended by the idea of such a monstrosity. The building was designed by A.B. Rosenthal and built by Charles Urton. Having never built a structure of the Granada’s size, Urton ordered “how to” books to coach him through the process. The following year, Santa Barbara was hit by a 6.8 earthquake that seriously damaged much of the city including the Mission, the Courthouse, the jail, and most of State Street. Surprising to some, the recently opened Granada Theater sustained little damage.

Granada Theater facing stage. Photo credit:

Granada Theater facing stage. Photo Credit:

Throughout decades of stars, movies, performances and music, the theater experienced many changes including being converted to a three-screen movie theater with walls painted black. In 2004, the Theater closed its doors for three years as the Santa Barbara Center for the Performing Arts spearheaded an incredible plan for restoration. The ensuing $52 million restoration included restored loge and balcony, updated lighting and stage equipment, a new box office, a custom orchestra and all of the back stage accouterments that make the Granada a contemporary theater. Many steps were taken to preserve the historic charm, including the addition of 275 period light fixtures.

The City of Santa Barbara has since passed an ordinance limiting the height of all structures within the City limits, ensuring that the Granada Theater will remain the tallest building in town.

Granada Theater above State Street during Solstice. Photo Credit: Courtney Dietz