La Paloma Theatre restoration in progress

Tiles removed, replaced, good for another 80 years

Theater owner Alan Largent and his dog Oscar leaned up against the ticket booth
  • Theater owner Alan Largent and his dog Oscar leaned up against the ticket booth

The arts and music community of Encinitas recently got together and held a benefit concert to kick-start the restoration of La Paloma Theatre, built in 1928. "Love the Dove" (paloma is Spanish for dove) featured local bands and recording artists Cindy Lee Berryhill and Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin, both Encinitas residents.

First up, remove and replace the aging, but vintage and colorful mosaic tiles, covering the ticket booth, which is still in use.

La Paloma

471 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas

Owner Alan Largent knows he has one of the last art deco-styled, single screen, independently owned theaters in the country. He knows some of the fixtures in the 390-seat house are original. But in removing the tiles for cleaning and resetting, he discovered he had some Southern California history.

The tiles were set at the time of the theater's construction, handmade and painted by Claycraft Potteries out of Los Angeles. Founded in 1922 on San Fernando Road, the company's father-son team of Fred and George Robertson sold their tiles around the country until 1939.

“Claycraft’s decorative tiles, among the more collectable on the market today, provide some of the most idyllic California imagery of the period,” states L.A.’s Wells Tiles and Antiques website.

By happenstance, it was a father-son team that helped Largent reset the tiles. Largent said John and Logan Funk, local tile-setters, made sure the tiles' resetting would last another 80 years. “Logan used to work for me when he was younger, until he followed in his father’s footsteps.”

But it was Largent who removed each tile from the ticket booth over the course of many months. He first used a flex blade, then a diamond-bladed oscillating multitool to break up the grout under the hard ones. He said it took "a lot of patience. Some were missing and I only broke one. ”

Largent said each three-and-a-half-inch square tile is estimated to be valued at $20 each, if they can be found. The tiles are laid in a four-tile design pattern.

Next up for restoration, the Coast Highway 101 marquee, which has its large plastic lettering changed often daily to advertise upcoming films, concerts, premieres of surf, skate, and action-sports presentations, or — for decades now — the every-Friday-at-midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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