The articles in this section were written by several authors between 1995 and 2005. Many pages are identified as “under construction,” and additional essays were planned but not completed. These articles reflect the available information and historical perspectives of the authors and the time when they were written. They have not been revised or updated. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Monterey County Historical Society, its board, volunteers, or staff.

California’s First Theatre

This old adobe is unique on two counts: its architectural design and its history as a theater setting. Map.

It was constructed by Jack Swan, an English sailer of Scottish ancestry who settled in Monterey in 1843, as a saloon and apartment house. Four two-room units, each with outside east and west doors and a back room fireplace, were separated by partitions which could be raised and lowered.

The functional character and the building was expanded further when Colonel John D. Stevenson’s regiment disbanded in Monterey at the close of the Mexican War and persuaded Jack Swan to permit them to convert the building into the Union Theater for the production of melodramas.

Ninety years later the old building again became the setting for theatrical productions when, on Monterey’s birthday, June 3, 1937, the Troupers of the Gold Coast revived the old time melodramas and continued to perform them on weekends through the year. The First Theatre is now a unit of Monterey State Historic Park, which uses the “theatre” spelling rather than “theater.”

Location: Pacific and Scott streets