Friday, December 20, 2013

Saved! Clock Auditorium, Redlands High School, California

Clock Auditorium at Redlands High School is an imposing concrete monolith. Located at 840 E. Citrus Avenue, Redlands High School is the oldest public high school in California still in use on its original location (according to Wikipedia). The auditorium was dedicated to a long-term school official, Mr. Fred H. Clock, on May 12th, 1940.
But despite its massive poured concrete construction, it does not come across as bunker-like. The cream-color paint and red clay tile roof soften the facade.
Clock was built in 1928, at a time when California was in ascendancy and future prosperity looked unstoppable. The nation had not yet descended into the Great Depression and city fathers wanted their children to benefit from the arts.
Ascend the stage and look back, and you see what an imposing space this is. This was built for a high school? In a small town at the east end of the Los Angeles valley? The orchestra seating has been replaced with modern padded units.
The view is just as impressive from the balcony.
Clock Auditorium ceiling with reinforcing rods.
The roof is made of amazing timbers.  Sometime in the 1960s, it was retrofitted to be more earthquake resistant. Steel tension rods were run across the rafters to hold the structure together in case of tremors. According to the web page of the Redlands High School Drama club, the auditorium was scheduled for demolition in the early 1980s. A wrecking ball was tested against the south wall, and it bounced off, leaving only a minor dent. At that stage, the school department decided to renovate the structure. I suspect there is more to the story, but at least it was saved. Since then, the electrical system has been renovated, theater machinery replaced, and a new fire curtain installed.

The balcony still has its original wood seats. Ouch, imagine sitting in these for a 4+-hr production of Tristan und Islode.
Unused spotlight in Clock Auditorium
Stair to balcony, Clock Auditorium.
Some of the hallways up in the attic are a bit spooky.
The auditorium gets regular use. This was the inaugural concert of the Redlands Community Orchestra, and the audience numbered over 300. This town still supports the Arts.
Costume storage, Clock Auditorium.

The basement area under the stage is pretty interesting. There are hundreds of costumes, props, and sets. Part of the stage can be removed for certain performances. Again, notice the impressive timbers.

Interesting decorative elements were molded into the pillars. I am not sure if these are concrete or plaster. Even the toilet stalls were the best possible - marble walls and chrome-plated fittings.

Clock Auditorium is an example that good architecture can be preserved and used for its original purpose decade after decade. It takes work and community spirit, but it is possible. Why won't more American communities follow this example? Who really benefits from erecting new schools, auditoriums, municipal buildings (and worst of all, convention centers) - often at a compromised budget? Do you suppose there may be some corruption involved?

The Redlands High School Performing Arts Department has a web page with a short description of Clock Auditorium.

Interior photographs taken with a Panasonic G3 camera, tripod-mounted. The two exterior scenes are from an iPhone 4.


  1. Beautiful!! So glad Redlands saved this!

  2. Me too. We've had 3 generations of our family be apart of this building @ Redlands High School!!

  3. Love this beautiful building. Such a great theatre. Wonderful memories

  4. Spent many hours in this building. I love it still.

  5. Me too, since it was named for my great grandfather.

  6. Neat post. I really do enjoy the slip form concrete buildings of this era that are in California.
    Those column capitols might be made of a material referred to as "compo" short for composition ornament. Essentially it is just glue and whiting. It is great for packing a mold that will have fine details.

  7. I loved being in the theater class at RHS and spent a lot of time in Clock Auditorium.......beautiful and classic !

  8. The building may be saved but it is in horrible disrepair. The school district gets money for its use, but none of that is given back to care for the building. These photos were taken only 4 years ago, and already so much has rotted away. The school district better wake up, or the building will be gone...but I don't think they really care.