Santa Monica held a “Welcome Back Barnum Hall” concert March 8th celebrating the renovation of the hall and the return of a renovated 1921 Wurlitzer Pipe Organ donated by Gordon Belt to the venue.
The concert featured internationally acclaimed theater organists Lyn Larson and Lance Luce,
as well as a Laurel and Hardy silent film with organ accompaniment by Santa Monica High School’s Wind Ensemble and student organists. The event was held to thank those who were instrumental in restoring the hall.
Built in 1937 by the Works Project Administration on the expanding Santa Monica High School campus, Barnum Hall was designed to be a “cultural magnet” for Santa Monica — to support school and community performing arts events, school officials noted.
Designed by the architecture firm of Marsh, Smith & Powell, Barnum Hall was considered one of the finest art deco theaters of its time, designed in the Streamline Moderne style mirrored throughout Santa Monica, officials said.
The hall was renamed in 1944, when it was dedicated to the memory of Samohi’s distinguished principal, William F. Barnum, who had helped plan it.
By 1994, Barnum Hall had fallen into disrepair and the Northridge Earthquake that year destroyed the original pipe organ.
An effort was initiated by a coalition of citizens, parents, alumni, faculty and elected officials to generate the funds to restore the hall. The volunteer group Restore Barnum Hall! raised awareness in the community and more than $1 million to restore the hall, and the City of Santa Monica donated $1.1 million.
The renovation was also boosted by the approval of Proposition X by Santa Monica and Malibu voters. The hall reopened in 2002 with acoustical improvements, updated technical equipment, orchestra lift, and fly system along with a restored interior and exterior.
The facility currently serves the activities of Santa Monica High School, the school district and many nonprofit and professional organizations. The hall offers a wide range of concerts, performances and lectures to the community.