616 2nd Street
This is a superb example of a late Streamline Moderne movie palace with original neon signage. The building marks the end of the downtown commercial area and the beginning of an early residential neighborhood and is a prominent visual landmark. Built in 1950 by the West Side Valley Theaters, the Varsity Theater has become a Davis cultural institution and continues to provide Davis with entertainment, although now converted for live stage use. The theater was originally built in 1921 at 702 2nd Street by the Luft family in the hope it would earn income as a rental property. However, the managing company folded within a year and the family became directly involved in the entertainment business. Each family member was active in the variety of tasks needed, including playing the organ to accompany silent movies. Although it survived the Depression and increased entertainment competition, it was sold to the West Side Valley Theaters Company which later built the present theater, billed in 1950 as the most modern theater in the Sacramento Valley. It is currently owned by the City of Davis.