The Catalina Island Museum
celebrated the 60th anniversary of its opening earlier this year,
but there’s no reason to stop the champagne from flowing quite yet.
Construction has now begun on the
museum’s future home: the new
Wrigley Schreiner Building located on Metropole Avenue, near the heart of
Avalon. Construction is expected
to take over a year, and the new museum is slated to open in early 2015.
“We’re different than most
museums,” Dr. Michael De Marsche, Executive Director of the museum recently
stated. “We have been established
for quite a long time, but we’ve never had a permanent building. When Philip Wrigley led the effort to
establish a museum in 1953, he was generous enough to provide a space on the
ground level of the Casino. It’s a
superb space and a wonderful location.
We’ve certainly prospered there. But during all these years, we’ve actually rented the
space. And there were severe
limitations to our ability to grow. Visitors to the museum consistently rate
the museum as one of the best attractions in Avalon. But they almost invariably comment that they wanted to see
more. We are completely unable to expand and acquire more exhibition space.”
All of that is now about to
change. The new museum building, designed by the architectural firm of Marengo
Morton Architects of La Jolla, will provide well over 11,000 square feet of
space and offer more than four times the overall square footage of the present
Visitors to the new museum can
expect all the amenities. A
spacious entrance lobby and visitor center will offer an impressive
welcome. A digital theater is
accessible just off the main lobby and will begin every visitor’s tour of the
museum with a film about Catalina Island’s history. A museum store will be
accessible just off the lobby, and an outdoor atrium featuring a wall of
cascading water is a highlight.
Expansive exhibition galleries are dedicated to the island’s history and
to temporary exhibitions, many of which will travel to the island.
“We’re particularly excited about
our Special Exhibitions gallery,” De Marsche says. “It will allow us to bring to the island art and photography
exhibitions from anywhere in the world.
And our gallery dedicated to the exhibition of plein air painting will
allow us to exhibit for the first time our entire collection dedicated to this
One of the most unusual features
of the museum is the amount of exterior space that exists both on the
building’s rooftop and in the gardens immediately adjacent to the museum.
“We wanted to take advantage of
our outstanding climate,” De Marsche observes. “Our entertainment spaces are actually on our rooftop and
will, I believe, become immensely popular for special events and occasions like
dinners, opening receptions and weddings. We really tried to think outside the box when approaching the
entire building, but I think the garden is completely unique. We placed a large projection screen on
one of the buildings directly opposite an amphitheater in the garden that seats
over 100 people. It will allow us
to show films in the evening and provide an entertaining augment to any event.“
The new museum building is one of
the largest construction projects on Catalina Island since the completion of
the Avalon Casino in 1929. As
anyone who has endeavored to complete even a small project on the island can
testify, construction on Santa Catalina represents a considerable challenge. But the new building will represent one
of the first to utilize modular construction.
“We explored conventional ways of
building, but the costs were too high,” De Marsche states. “Our building will be one of the most
stable on the island, with steel reinforcement throughout its
infrastructure. But the majority
of the walls will be built and prepared on the mainland, and then barged to the
island. They will be joined
onsite, which represents the most cost effective way of building. We’ll be the first museum I know of
using this method of construction.
We will represent to any future building project facing the same
challenges we are an effective and less expensive way of building.”
Perhaps no single destination on
Catalina Island is as popular with residents and visitors alike as the Catalina
Island Museum. The museum’s
special exhibitions devoted to the Chicago Cubs, the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe,
Spencer Davis and Hollywood Celebrities attracted the largest crowds in its
history. Admissions to the museum
zoomed up 62 percent in 2011. The
growth in museum membership has been even more dramatic. In February of 2011 the museum had fewer
than 300 members. Today, membership
to the museum is at a record 2,000 members and growing.
“Obviously, history is important
not only to residents of the island but visitors also,” De Marsche states. “The museum’s Board of Trustees was
very direct about the building’s exterior appearance. They wanted it to not only reflect Avalon, but to provide
the island with a work of architecture that could be viewed by future generations
as the island’s finest example of institutional building. We decided to create a building that
blended the mission style with the art deco of the 1920s. You’ll see echoes of the Avalon Casino
and even the bird park in the building’s façade. But I think we were at our most inventive when looking for
the art deco piece of the façade.
We found it in the famous marquee located at Wrigley Field. This inspired the museum’s entrance and
the highest portion of our facade.
We thought it a very fitting tribute to the Wrigley family, the city of
Chicago and the Cubs—all of which play an important role in Avalon’s
history. It was our way of
demonstrating that history will always play a role in shaping our beautiful
The public is invited to a formal
ceremony celebrating the groundbreaking of the
Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building. The groundbreaking will take place on the building’s site on
November 2 at 4:00 p.m.
For more information about the ceremony or
Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner
Building, please call 310-510-4650 or visit www.CatalinaMuseum.org.
The Catalina Island Museum is
Avalon’s sole institution devoted to art, culture and history. The museum, its digital theater and
store are located on the ground floor of Avalon’s historic Casino and are open
7 days a week, from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, the museum
may be reached by phone at 310-510-2414 or at its website: