For nearly 100 years, the Catalina Casino has greeted island visitors, the magnificent architectural marvel providing a dramatic welcome to Avalon Harbor. Home to a theatre and a ballroom, the building is an integral part of the island experience.
For many Catalina visitors, the most important secret to know about the Catalina Casino is that there’s no gambling inside that iconic building. Here are three others:
The murals — the Avalon Theatre murals are masterpieces of art deco design that pay homage to the island and early California life. Deer leap, steeds charge and ships sail across the fanciful landscape that has intrigued generations. Those murals hide a number of secrets — one of which is the artists who painted it. Five monks are found on the left side of the mural; four of those monks’ faces were painted as self portraits by the artists. The fifth, whose face is hidden, represents John Gabriel Beckman, the renowned artist who designed the mural.
The seats — When the Catalina Casino was completed in 1929, it was the pinnacle of luxury. Designed to showcase the latest in movie technology, it also featured the latest in comforts and convenience. In the 1920s and 30s, no self-respecting gentleman would appear without his hat — and a place for that hat was essential while enjoying the movie. Beneath the seats of nearly every seat in the theatre was a hat shelf, the perfect place to hide your head gear. While the upholstery has been replaced several times, the hat shelves remain beneath the seats, a hidden testament to long ago fashion.
The walls — Once the United States joined World War 2, the entire country took part in the war effort and Catalina Island was no exception. The resort destination was transformed into a military base, with several branches utilizing it for everything from lookout station to training base. Once the war ended, practical minds prevailed, and the war surplus left behind was catalogued and what could be used was turned into emergency supplies. Stashed in metal 55-gallon drums are first aid kits, blankets, cots and other supplies. Those drums are hidden in a secret space in the interior walls of the Casino, ready to be put to use if they are ever needed.