One of Petaluma’s finest examples of Mission Revival Style architecture is the current Cinnabar Theater on Petaluma Boulevard, North. It was originally built in 1910 as the second school site to serve the Cinnabar School District. The school was named after the Cinnabar railway station, one of many stops of the old Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railway. The name Cinnabar was selected by early settlers because they thought cinnabar (a mineral) was present in the nearby rock soil.
The following description and photograph of the original Cinnabar School has been duplicated from Don Peterson’s Petaluma Architectural Heritage, published in 1978: “The building has curvilinear shaped espadana and arched belfry. The basic ‘L’ shape has a medium pitched gable roof with exposed rafters and overhanging eaves. There is a circular window at each end of the espadana. Other windows are double hung with divided panes.”
After the school district moved to its current location on Skillman Lane in 1957, the former site was sold to the Loyal Order of Eagles. Marvin Klebe purchased the old school building in 1969. With the help of his sons, it was refurbished so the family could live in it as well as serve the artistic community as a theater, which opened in 1972. Elly Litchenstein joined the theater staff in 1975 and when Marvin died in 1999, she became the Executive Director. The current building complex contains the auditorium, an office, workshop and storage buildings.
Although the building is no longer a school, it continues to serve the community as an educational center for young people who are interested in careers as musicians, singers, and actors. The mission of Cinnabar Theater’s Young Repertory Theater, founded in 1983, is “to train young people in the dramatic and musical performing arts. To help them make lasting and meaningful connections between the performing arts and their daily lives. To foster the understanding that art should be a normal part of daily life and belongs in every citizen’s expectation of their society.”
Stay tuned for more “Then & Now” blogs about our favorite river town.