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Verdugo Views: The namesake of Stepper Auditorium

January 24, 2012|By Katherine Yamada
  • The old Stepper Auditorium building at 220 Broadway was home to the Verdugo Club for many years. It was sold to the Glendale Redevelopment Agency in the late 1970s to make way for Glendale Galleria II. The Nordstrom department store is presently on the site. (Courtesy of Special Collections, Glendale Public Library)
The old Stepper Auditorium building at 220 Broadway was…

George D. Stepper was the man behind the building at 220 West Broadway that became known as the Stepper Auditorium building. It later became the first home of the Verdugo Club, then gave way to redevelopment in the late 1970s.

Stepper’s building opened in 1928 with four stories, 24 office spaces and, on the second floor, the “largest and most beautiful auditorium or social hall in Glendale,” as glowingly described in a booklet Stepper produced at the time. “The conception of this building has been largely shaped by the public spirit and civic pride of the owner who has not allowed the usual consideration of maximum returns for the investment to influence his decision.”

Glendale then had a population of 78,000 and described itself as one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. Stepper’s booklet boasted that the city showed a population increase of 387% between the 1910 census and the 1920 census.

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One of the reasons for the population increase was, of course, the Pacific Electric, which had been providing commuter train service between Glendale and Los Angeles for nearly a quarter of a century. By 1928 there were 72 such trains between the two cities, plus several bus lines connecting Glendale with other neighboring cities.

Stepper’s booklet bragged that, at the time the building opened, the rapidly growing city had 14 hotels, with rates ranging from $1 to $3.50. It also had more than 100 modern apartment houses providing furnished and unfurnished living spaces and 100 bungalow courts.

The booklet said the auditorium was perfect for dances, theatricals, private weddings and other events and had a kitchen capable of serving 1,000 people.

Stepper’s building was centrally located and very close to Central Avenue, which was 100 feet wide and without car tracks. “It is one of the most beautiful boulevards in all of Southern California. It is now becoming a most important business artery. That it is destined to become the main avenue of Glendale, there can be no doubt.’’

Stepper’s mention of car tracks was a reference to the Pacific Electric line on Brand Boulevard, which still had the trolley poles that had been installed when the line was built. They were removed, with much fanfare, in 1934, according to “Glendale Area History.”

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